Vladimir Ryzhkov, Doomsday’s Outrider: I Wanted a NATO Intervention for Christmas

Uncle Volodya says, "Those who beat their swords into plowshares will end up plowing for those who didn't."

Bye-bye, 2011; Happy New Year, everyone! С Новым годом!!

It’s funny, how you can go on reading the same newspaper day after day and, if it’s a foreign paper you mostly read only for the opinion columns, you never notice who the other writers are or what the paper’s political philosophy is. I used to read the Moscow Times every day, but that was during the tenure of the Bush administration. I had taken an interest in foreign politics that year that surpassed by far my interest in what was happening politically in my own country because, as the old saying goes, it’s like sausage; plenty of people are okay with the finished product, but you never want to watch it being made. Anyway, I became a politics junkie on American and Russian issues – the former because the nation had elected a president who offered every appearance of being stone-cold crazy, and the latter because of my Russian wife. The Moscow Times (online edition) became a daily staple, because I enjoyed Chris Floyd’s column, Global Eye, in which he regularly excoriated the Bush administration, and I also browsed it for items of political or military interest on Russia. Suffice it to say that so naive was I, I thought Pavel Felgenhauer actually was an authority on defense matters rather than the western think-tank toady he is. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, all right?

It’s a measure of how long it’s been since I paid any attention to the Moscow Times that I did not notice until today that Chris Floyd was fired in 2006. Apparently his column “no longer fit in with the paper’s plans”. In 2005, the Moscow Times was sold to the Finnish publishing group Sanoma, owned by one of Finland’s richest men, Aatos Erkko (a regular at Bilderberg Group meetings), and members of his family; Sanoma also owns the St. Petersburg Times. At the Moscow Times, former Deputy Editor Andrew McChesney moved up to Editor. I honestly couldn’t say if this marked a change in ideology (although your friend and mine, “Kim Zigfeld” claimed Mr. McChesney as an associate), since I didn’t read most of what was in it.

Well, where was I? Oh, yes; Vladimir Ryzhkov. All that time reading the Moscow Times, and I never heard of Vladimir Ryzhkov. Never took notice of him at all, in fact, until Yalensis pointed out in a comment to the last post that Mr. Ryzhkov would be organizing the next Russian protest march and rally, just as he had organized the last one on December 24th. But he was there all the time, beavering away at the Moscow Times since at least 2002 (as far back as his articles go).

Western journalism long ago abandoned any pretense to objectivity, and it is usually fairly easy to figure out which way a particular source wishes any given issue to go. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, for example. Every western source I read at the time of his second conviction damned the Russian judicial system to the blackest depths of hell, to be escorted there personally by Vladimir Putin, for jailing that mild-mannered, incredibly rich prisoner of conscience – why, he wouldn’t hurt a fly, anyone can see that; just look at his little rimless glasses!! He looks like John Denver with a buzz cut!! Plainly, western sources thought Mikhail Khodorkovsky was cute as a button, more or less completely innocent, and only jailed because he represented a political threat to Vladimir the Black-Hearted. Incidentally, a theory to which Mr. Ryzhkov subscribes.

Anyway, the western media is intensely interested in the protests in Russia, and pretty much only those that occur in Moscow, especially since the others across the country seem to be dying out. But a couple of very popular – in the west – “colour revolutions”, those in Georgia and Ukraine, argued persuasively that massive protests in a country’s capital city were quite capable of bringing down the government; in the case of Ukraine, protesters were moved in to Kiev from other regions. The west plainly wants the Moscow demonstrations to succeed in the same objective, and Vladimir Ryzhkov is their point man on the demonstrations. So it behooves us to be interested in him as well.

So, who is Vladimir Ryzhkov? Let’s take a stroll thorough his resume. Mr. Ryzhvov first came to public attention in 1993 as a State Duma member of Russia’s Choice; a party headed by Yegor Gaidar. The principal architect of  the Yeltsin-era “shock therapy” and widespread privatizations that left huge sectors of state assets in the hands of a few fabulously wealthy individuals, Mr. Gaidar was immensely popular with Yeltsin’s western advisers. Jeffrey Sachs, ringleader of the “Harvard Boys” , referred to Gaidar as ” the intellectual leader of many of Russia’s political and economic reforms”. Russians who saw their savings evaporate were, understandably, less complimentary.

At that time, Mr. Ryzhkov was stand-up-and-shout-it pro-Kremlin. But that was when the “Great Reformer” was running the show. He ran as an independent in 1999, but later joined a pro-Yeltsin coalition called the Unity Party of Russia. When Vladimir Putin took over, Ryzhkov was dismissed from the coalition. Wikipedia doesn’t say if those two events were related, but Mr. Ryzhkov sure seems to have a hate on for Putin. He’s a Professor of the Moscow Higher School of Economics (somehow, I knew that was coming), and a prolific writer for Novaya Gazeta, the Moscow Times and the St. Petersburg Times; all, to varying degrees, anti-government, with Novaya Gazeta practically foaming off the presses with rage at Vladimir Putin’s temerity in continuing to live.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that the notion the Kremlin ruthlessly controls the media and makes them goose-step to its bloody tune, and that Putin has everyone killed who opposes him, appears more ridiculous with each new issue of Novaya Gazeta and the Moscow Times; the former calls Putin everything but late for dinner, and the latter is only marginally more circumspect. Somehow, enough staff members always seem to survive the hail of poison darts and the gauntlet of sword umbrellas to get the next issue out.

And what is it with Russian economists? Christ, every one of them reckons Boris Yeltsin, Yegor Gaidar and Anatoly Chubais were geniuses, while Vladimir Putin is the village idiot. The economy blew through the basement on its way to the earth’s core under the guidance of the aforementioned Yeltsin, Gaidar and Chubais, and gained steadily under Putin while accumulating the world’s third-largest cash reserves. Vladimir Ryzhkov pens rhapsodies to western business know-how that has resulted in a Eurozone that may not outlast 2012 and a USA that entered the top-20 list of the world’s most indebted nations, with external debt of greater than 100% of GDP. It seems plain that what attracts Mr. Ryzhkov’s admiration is not the west’s business sense, but its power.

Without further ado, then, let’s take a look at how Mr. Ryzhkov saw his country over years of bitterness and western envy.

Much of his earlier work is behind a pay wall at the Moscow Times. The first western daily to be published in Russia, the Moscow Times has been around since 1992. It has a daily circulation of around 35,000 copies (in a city of somewhere between 12 and 15 million), and is given out free in about 500 business centres, hotels, restaurants and embassies. You might wonder why a newspaper that is handed out free in hard copy needs to have all its electronic content behind a pay wall, and I would be wondering right along with you. Especially since sources like La Russophobe brag that while its circulation is tiny, it is one of the most-cited electronic sources in the world. Well, my commitment to journalistic integrity doesn’t extend as far as subscription, so we’re going to have to start at 2004, with a Ryzhkov piece entitled, “Putin’s Mission Impossible“. Gee: that doesn’t sound very optimistic. Maybe we’d better take a look, from the viewpoint that the author was a relatively experienced politician then and is trying to play as much of a part now as he can in the choosing of Russia’s next leader.

Hmmm…well, something that strikes me right out of the gate is that Ryzkhov is characterizing a hopeless political system (Putin’s) by contrasting it with a utopian and presently non-existing one. I know democracy advocates tend to build their fictional government models based on ideals, but still. “Only honest, well trained bureaucrats, devoted to serving the common good, could reform education, healthcare and the armed forces. Only when they are held accountable for their actions by legislatures will they change their age-old habits. Only strict and vigilant civilian control of the military, law enforcement and the security services can introduce transparency into the enormous “war economy.” To conquer poverty and social stratification, Russia needs independent trade unions and a powerful parliamentary opposition. Only an extensive network of independent media, coupled with independent prosecutors and judges, will allow us to root out corruption. Without democratic institutions, we have little hope of restricting the power of the bureaucracy and of cutting through the red tape that hinders growth.

Let’s take a look around the world’s premiere democracies, those for which Mr. Ryzhkov has elsewhere expressed admiration, for parallels.  Honest, well-trained bureaucrats devoted to serving the public good…let’s try the United Kingdom. Ooooo..nope, sorry. Lord Taylor’s was just one of three cases in 2011 of parliamentarians fiddling their travel expense claims; in Lord Taylor’s case, to the tune of £11,277.00. In his own defense, Lord Taylor contended “it had been a common practice among peers to claim for fake journeys and enter expenses claims with a false address as a main residence, and he believed it was acceptable to do this provided there was a “family connection” with the property.” So much for honesty.

Only when they are held accountable by legislatures…let’s try Canada. I realize Mr. Ryzhkov has not specifically expressed admiration for Canadian democracy, but I’d rate it as highly as any other, and there’s no reason my own country should escape the litmus test.  Which, at least according to this source, it fails. “Instead of government “by, for, and of the people,” conducted in open, accountable, and legislative forums, we increasingly have government by executive decree that seems to focus on serving narrow partisan interests rather than the principled public interest. In Canada, this trend is magnified by the dysfunction in the sharing of power among all levels of government – national, provincial, municipal, and aboriginal – which stymies any serious progress on critical issues.” Beat that, Vladimir Putin. Particularly poignant among the largely positive comments to this article is that of Seamus McLuhan: “What is the outcome of collaboration in a society where success is all about self rather than something larger than self? “ You said it, Seamus.

Strict and vigilant civilian control of the military, law enforcement and security services…let’s have a look at the United States. Well, at least one prominent presidential candidate for the upcoming elections this year promises to end civilian control of the military in favour of military commanders. Meanwhile, since the Founding Fathers the USA has had civilian control over the military. That didn’t stop the nation from attacking Iraq on false pretenses, or from leading a regime-change initiative in Libya – while insisting it had nothing to do with regime change – which enabled an al Qaeda-friendly Islamic fundamentalist government. Law enforcement? Generally good and far superior to Russia’s often-corrupt police forces, but not without startling abuses of public trust. Any of these incidents, if they took place in Russia, would be used as exemplary of systemic rot throughout the governing party, and you know it. Rick Perry sounds at least as detached from reality as Zhirinovsky – that the kind of opposition you’re talking about?

It hardly seems fair to me to rail about Putin failing to establish a reliable system that doesn’t really exist anywhere outside conceptualized idealism. There’s nothing wrong with arguing for improvement, but let’s keep it real, what do you say?

Well, we’re going to have to pick things up a bit, or this will turn into a book. Let’s jump to 2006. In the St. Petersburg Times, Ryzhkov argues sarcastically that the delusional Russian government “has been hammering home the image of an unpredictable, aggressive Georgia that is feverishly arming itself for an attack on the defenseless, peaceful enclave of South Ossetia.” This is brought about by the government’s draconian message control via the media, to which he devotes the rest of the article. In 2008, an aggressive and unpredictable Georgia armed and trained by the U.S. government and military did strike South Ossetia. The nation’s leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, only a year before, imposed martial law to crush protest and seized and shut down independent media stations. I have to say you guessed totally wrong on that one, Mr. Ryzhkov.

Forward to 2008 in Mr. Ryzhkov’s work. Family members of Russian bureaucrats, he tells us, ” live in luxurious homes in the west, and their children study there. The money they have stolen from the state budget and major state-owned companies sits in foreign bank accounts”. Let’s recall that the last time Mr. Ryzhkov was politically active for any length of time, he was a devoted supporter of Boris Yeltsin, who handed control of state industries to connected businessmen who became so rich overnight they could easily afford luxurious homes in the west. Indeed, that’s just where several of them went. Mr. Ryzhkov hypothesizes that “corruption and the already large income gap will grow even more“. In fact, minimum wage in Russia was doubled only the year before. And I daresay there is a substantial income gap between the average Russian full-time employee and the aforementioned Mikhail Khodorkovsky – whom Mr. Ryzhkov views as a wronged political prisoner, to the extent he joined in petitioning the U.S. Senate to blacklist Russian political and judicial figures identified as “enemies of YUKOS”.

Another jump, to 2009. Mr. Ryzhkov moaned in “Very Little to Celebrate” what a mess the country was in. Incomes, he wept, have remained almost the same over the last 20 years. Is that so? No, it’s not; it’s bullshit. As you can see here, Russian per-capita GDP adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) rose steadily throughout Putin’s terms, and in 2009 was nearly triple what it was in 1999. Russia’s recovery from the global financial crisis was decidedly more robust than that of the United States. Ryzhkov’s ode to failure sounds like something that might be featured at La Russophobe – where, coincidentally, he received a ringing endorsement that year in which she informed her audience Ryzhkov reminded her of “the good old days when the mighty Moscow Times (circulation, 35,000) was not afraid to speak truth to power“. She also described Mr. Ryzhkov, last summer, as “…with Boris Nemtsov, [one] of the three most significant political figures in Russia today”. High praise, indeed. This is the same source, I need hardly remind you, which regularly referred to Russians as pigs and characterized Russian girls as prostitutes.

Well, we have to move this along – 2010. In another sunny piece of optimism wrapped in high hopes entitled, “Forever Stuck in Stagnation”, Mr. Ryzhkov informs us that “…the situation for small and mid-sized businesses in Russia is worsening in all regions. Companies are closing down, and the unemployment rate is worsening.” Mr. Ryzhkov has no better idea than I do how many small businesses are operating at any time in Russia, as a substantial number are unregistered in order to avoid payroll taxes, and the unemployment rate in the month Mr. Ryzhkov wrote that little pick-me-up was about half what it was when Mr. Putin took the reins from Ryzhkov’s hero, Boris Yeltsin. It declined steadily throughout Vladimir Putin’s leadership except for a blip associated with the global financial crisis. Today, it is at least 2% less than that of the United States.

2010 was also the year Ryzhkov began to give voice to his hopes that the downfall of Putin’s administration lay in increased internet penetration. He dedicated “China and Russia will be Forced to Democratize” to excited rambling about the positive effect of the internet in China on bringing the authorities to heel, interspersed with smug chuckling about blogs and YouTube being used by internet-savvy Russian youth to do an end run around state television. He sings the praises of Deng Xiaoping, “visionary chief architect of Chinese reforms”, and muses ruefully about how much more competent Chinese Communist leaders are in economics and political matters than their Russian counterparts.

As much as I also admire China’s can-do attitude, I’m compelled to point out that in 2010 it shared a berth with Chad, Belarus and Syria for “severely suppressing opposition political activity, impeding independent organizing, and censoring or punishing criticism of the state” according to Freedom house’s “Worst of the Worst 2010“. That wise old visionary architect of reform, Deng Xiaoping, developed a concept known as the Socialist Market Economy. When the Great Leap Forward failed to deliver on its promises, Deng Xiaoping showed willingness to embrace the free market, but it might be characterized as a brother-sister hug in terms of passion. He “remained committed to centralized control and the one-party state”. This reference goes on to suggest, “the fundamental distinction between the Chinese and Western mixed-market economy models lies less in the implementation of the mixed economic model but rather in the underlying authoritarian political philosophy, which eschews Western notions of democracy, individual rights, and the rule of law.”

An authoritarian system, I need hardly mention, which makes that of Vladimir Putin look pretty liberal by comparison. Marxists criticize the Socialist Market Economy model “on the grounds that [it] restores capitalist commodity relations and production while further dis-empowering the working class, leading to a sharp increase in social inequality and the formation of a growing capitalist class.” That more like what you had in mind, Mr. Ryzhkov?

So, here we are back in the now. Vladimir Ryzhkov organized the rally on December 24th, and must have been very excited by the response. He hopes to pull better than a million Russians into the streets for the next one. The big draw at the December rally, and doubtless up in lights on the marquee for the next, was Alexei Navalny. Not much is currently known about Navalny’s ideas on economic reform – I’m hoping more insight will come about with Yalensis’s translation of the Navalny interview with Ekho Moskvy. But he did say that he – as Russia’s leader – would stabilize and legalize privatization.

Just like Ryzhkov’s last hero.

This entry was posted in Alexei Navalny, Economy, Government, Law and Order, Politics, Rule of Law, Russia, Vladimir Putin and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

422 Responses to Vladimir Ryzhkov, Doomsday’s Outrider: I Wanted a NATO Intervention for Christmas

  1. Hunter says:

    “I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that the notion the Kremlin ruthlessly controls the media and makes them goose-step to its bloody tune, and that Putin has everyone killed who opposes him, appears more ridiculous with each new issue of Novaya Gazeta and the Moscow Times; the former calls Putin everything but late for dinner, and the latter is only marginally more circumspect. Somehow, enough staff members always seem to survive the hail of poison darts and the gauntlet of sword umbrellas to get the next issue out.”

    Mark, I suspect this is because a lot of persons in the western MSM are just unable to come to terms with a Russia which isn’t actually a dictatorship. So for them Russia = tightly controlled media and one party state. That’s probably why at the same time they are busy crowing about Putin and United Russia being slapped in the face by the electorate through loss of support they are also claiming that all the other parties in the Duma are really Kremlin puppets. As I said before at Anatoly’s blog, that kind of logic makes absolutely no sense. But I’m sure some believe it because when it comes to Russia they are schizoid.

    By the way there is an omission in your article (which was a very enjoyable read):

    “Only when they are held accountable by legislatures…let’s try Canada. I realize Mr. Ryzhkov has not specifically expressed admiration for Canadian democracy, but I’d rate it as highly as any other, and there’s no reason my own country should escape the litmus test. Which, at least according to this source, it fails. “Instead of government “by, for, and of the people,” conducted in open, accountable, and leg…”

    You haven’t given us a link to the source for the quote about Canada’s governance. I think you meant to provide the hyperlink within the sentence “Which, at least according to this source, it fails.”

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, you’re quite right; I must have become distracted. It was from an edgy partisan newspaper called The Mark; I’ve fixed it. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the author is related to Andrew Coyne, who is an extremely conservative columnist for The National Post, which is itself a very conservative newspaper – probably the most conservative in Canada on a national scale.

      I agree it hardly qualifies as a phenomenon to read, in a source such as Time Magazine, a gleeful recounting of how the massed will of the protesters has Putin shaking in his bottinki, only for it to be followed a paragraph or two later with the solemn declaration that Putin runs everything in Russia with an iron fist. Dichotomy R Us.

  2. Dear Mark,

    Thanks for all this.

    I first came across The Moscow Times in 2004 when I did a stopover in Moscow during a trip to Korea. I was flying Aeroflot and it was distributed for free on the plane. I thought it almost bizarrely way out even then. I remember being told that it was owned by Berezovsky and that its free distribution on Aeroflot flights was an arrangement that had been made when Berezovsky had had some interest in Aeroflot. I don’t know whether that is true or not. One thing that did immediately strike me was the strong similarity in appearance of the print edition to Moscow News, which of course is also published in English but which is a very different newspaper and is owned by Novosti. Moscow News acquired a brief cult following in the 1980s when it was at the forefront of glasnost. It took me some time to realise that the Moscow Times is a completely different newspaper and I am pretty sure that when it was first set up it intentionally traded on this confusion.

    Since then I have sporadically checked out the Moscow Times website. One thing that has become completely obvious to me is that much of what passes for western reporting of Russia is simply the reproduction of articles and stories that first appeared in Moscow Times. I suspect (I may be wrong) that the primary market of the Moscow Times is precisely the western media and western opinion makers and that one of its functions is to produce stories that the western media can then reproduce. Obviously the fact that it is written in English makes it easy to access. Pretty much every article on Russian military matters that appears in the western press seems for example to be simply a rehash of things Felgenhauer has written. I notice by the way that he is always referred to as a “respected authority on military matters” on the occasions when he is actually cited. Military affairs is a subject I am totally ignorant of but I understand that Felgenhauer has no background in the military and the performance of the Russian army in the 2008 Georgia war anyway seems to have proved him completely wrong about the competence of the Russian army at least. Needless to say being completely wrong about pretty much everything does not reduce your credibility in western eyes if you are anti Russian enough as your discussion of Vladimir Ryzhkov shows and the fact that he was proved so comprehensively wrong during the 2008 Georgia war doesn’t seem to have damaged Felgenhauer’s reputation at all.

    As for Vladimir Ryzhkov I have to admit that until the protest movement took off this month I had never heard of him.

    • marknesop says:

      I never thought the Moscow Times was all that “way out” before, but that’s probably because I didn’t read all of it. I liked Chris Floyd because it was apparent we both loathed Bush, and I read most of Felgenhauer’s columns out of professional interest. He seemed a little flaky, but not so much of a dummocks as he actually is. He did a piece not too long back on Russia’s acquisition of the new Mistral from France which was so shrieking and alarmist – Russia was making a grab for control of the sea lanes with only what will ultimately be 4, maybe 5 ships and will initially be only 2 – that Dmitry Gorenburg hammered it at Russian Military Reform. Dr. Gorenburg rarely takes notice of the chattering ignorant, and is almost never contemptuous as he is here.

  3. yalensis says:

    Excellent blog, @mark, I would even say one of your best. I had never heard of Ryzhkov either, before the recent events, so this was a real eye-opener for me. Thank you for your tireless investigative reporting. Getting clearer now that an important (if somewhat secretive) goal of the Dec 24 rally was to move forward the idea that Khodorkovsky should be freed and get YUKOS back as his property. Ryzhkov is most certainly a Khodorkovsky shill, and in the end this is what it is all about. It is all about Khodorkovsky. Khodorkovsky is a the Alpha and Omega of the Liberal Opposition, whether they know it or not.
    Okay, I got your hint that I need to translate Navalny’s interview. If Khodorkovsky is the (Alpha + Omega), then Navalny is the Man With the Plan to free him from his cage. It is too much work to translate the whole 2 hours of Navalny’s bullshit, but I will most certainly translate the segment on (his ideas for economic reform). I have the day off from work, so I can do this some time later today, I promise. (OMG I am turning into an internet hamster myself, is there no cure?….)

    P.S. Thanks also for that refreshing blast of Freddie Mercury! Like a super-caffeinated espresso running through my blood – YOWZA!

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, that track brings back memories of when I played with a small, mostly top-40 band; one night after we finished playing, we just took off to Prince Edward Island (nice summer holiday spot, on Canada’s East Coast) for a few days of unwinding. I drove a ’67 Dodge van at the time, with a ceiling-mounted 8-track player – nothing made by the hand of man disappeared from the face of the earth so completely as the 8-track player did a few years later. “Stone Cold Crazy” appeared on the “Sheer Heart Attack” album, and it was a favourite of mine that summer, so it was blasting out the windows all the way. Good times.

      I went to see a Queen tribute band a year or two ago, they dressed like the real band members and even looked vaguely like them, and they put on a very good performance. Queen demonstrated that although much of their music was almost orchestral, they were able to duplicate all of it live. And yes, Freddy Mercury was one of the greats.

  4. Moscow Exile says:

    I have often wondered what would happen to a Russian language newspaper published in the USA and called, in Russian, The Washington Times, which newspaper constantly and negatively – often scathingingly so – published editorials and articles that criticized the incumbent US administration, US government ministers and head of state.

    The following is an extract from a comment that appeared in the MT the other week and written by a Swede, Anders Åslund, a regular MT contributor who served as an economic adviser to the governments of both Russia and the Ukraine and who has been from 2003 a director of the Russian and Eurasian Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and from 2006 a senior fellow at the Washington-based Peterson Institute. During the 90s, Mr. Åslund was one of the Western advocates of the “shock therapy” measures that were applied, with disastrous socio-economic results, to the Russian economy following the dissolution of the USSR:

    “Let’s face it, the aim of Vladimir Putin’s regime and most other authoritarian regimes in the former Soviet Union is to maximize corruption for the enrichment of themselves and a broader elite. That is the reason for their authoritarian rule.”

    Mr. Åslund then continued to crticize strongly the Putin presidencies and premierships, in particular the signal failure, in his opinion, of the Russian state to effectively tackle corruption.

    Mr. Åslund, in arguing from reality (“let’s face it”), was, in effect, asking MT readers (over 60% of whom, according to MT surveys, being native Russian speakers) to believe that that which he was proposing in his argument against the policies of post-Yeltsin Russian administrations in general and Vladimir Putin in particular was self evident and, therefore, it was not necessary for him to present any evidence to support his argument because what he proposed was, well, let’s face it, self evident.

    Stands to “reason” doesn’t it?

    Mr. Åslund’s article was supposed to be about how to “rebuild” Russia, but its content, as is usual in the MT, was just unabashed and unsubstantiated political mud slinging at the Russian leadership. He also talked about the building of democracy in Russia, as though “democracy” were the sure-fire answer for all those Russian citizens that dream of being wealthy.

    Well, I have news for Mr. Åslund: there are plenty of impoverished folk who are citizens of Western democracies – and their number is increasing

    Had Mr. Åslund made such a “let’s face it” accusation in a western “democracy” or in Singapore or an Arabian Gulf State, he would have been buried under a tower of libel suits – or worse.

    Of course, Mr. Åslund’s concern about corruption in Russia is important, but he used this topic in order to take the opportunity of promoting in the MT his own already long ago proven misguided agenda.

    Mr. Åslund claims that as an economist his special interest is focused on the problems facing states that are undergoing the transition from a totalitarian to a pluralistic, democratic society. Corruption is a problem in many states that are undergoing such a transition; for with the breakdown of an authoritarian state system, the first beneficiaries are usually criminals who occupy the resultant power vacuum in a state such as the USSR was: a state that had neither a capitalististic legal and financial structure nor commercial lawyers, auditors and accountants.

    To be fair to the MT, I should like to add that most of which I have commented above was stated in a letter that I sent to that newspaper following the appearance of Mr. Åslund’s article; the MT was gracious enough to print my criticism, as it did with regards another reader’s letter on the same topic, part of the contents of which being included above.

    Alexander Mercouris writes above:

    “One thing that has become completely obvious to me is that much of what passes for western reporting of Russia is simply the reproduction of articles and stories that first appeared in Moscow Times”.

    Where do you think the Moscow Bureau Chief of the British “Guardian”, Luke Harding, was wont to pick up his stories? In fact, according to the now defunct “The Exile”, the Guardian Moscow Bureau Chief once seemed to have such a knack for publishing articles whose content and lead paragraphs looked so suspiciously similar to those written by Kevin O’Flynn of The Moscow Times that some of Mr. O’Flynn’s colleagues began accusing him of using a fake “Luke Harding” pen-name in order to milk two pay cheques for each article that appeared in the MT and Guardian. And if, as Mr. Harding claims, he was “brutallly” hounded out of a “brutal” Russia by its “brutal” security agency because of what he wrote, why did this not happen to Mr. Flynn, whose articles were so similar to those that Mr. Harding penned?

    • marknesop says:

      I read an article by Aslund once in which he was actually supportive of Russia; in their bid to join the WTO, in that instance. He must have been drinking or something. Because you’re right – he is normally full of good-humoured contempt for Russia, as if it were a nation of slack-jawed halfwits or dogs that walked on their hind legs and pretended they were people. And you’re right that the disarming, “come on, let’s face it, let’s be honest” approach is one of his favourites. To big-headed pontificators like Aslund, there is no countering their arguments, because they see wheels within wheels, layers deeper than any other human is capable of seeing, and you just don’t understand.

      I’m not all that familiar with Mr. Harding’s work, although I did see a piece of his enthusiastically endorsed by Ed Lucas, which told me all I needed to know. From what I’ve seen, Harding is another of those good-humoured pundits who write pityingly of Russia and its people; if only they were English, they’d realize just what they could be with a little bit of effort. Coincidentally, this post was going to be about Ed Lucas; it was originally titled, “The Writings of Edward Lucas: Brother, Can You Spare a Clue?” But I did a little research, and he appears not to have written anything since his smug, self-satisfied book. I couldn’t find anything that seemed both provocative and recent. Then it was going to be about Stanislav Belkovsky and his endless chittering about Putin’s massive stolen fortune and huge blocks of stock he allegedly owns in Gunvor and Surgutneftegaz. I’m pretty confident there must be a law or at least a company policy for jointly-held companies which prohibits “ghost” stockholders who own huge blocks of stock. So I wrote to Surgutneftegaz, but I haven’t received a response yet and I felt like getting on with the post.

      I signed up to comment on MT once, during the winter Olympics in Vancouver. One of their columnists, some poxy transplanted English git, wrote a couple of articles about Vancouver (from Moscow, which he never left) which were so abusive that I cracked and signed up just so I could respond. Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey; now I remember. Anyway, I don’t know if they ever printed my responses, because my interest turned to something else and I forgot about it.

      • Luke Harding in two articles.



        I have a half-finished blog post / Mark Ames-style attack piece sitting for eternity in the recesses of my WordPress files entitled “Luke Harding, World’s Sleaziest Journalist?” I really should move my lazy ass and get it finished someday…

        • Dear MoscowExile,

          I think your point about comparing the reaction in Russia to Moscow Times to that in the US to a hypothetical Washington Times is a shrewd one. Actually the kind of criticism RT gets, especially since it changed its name to RT, provides a good guide as to what the response would be.

        • marknesop says:

          Richard de Lacy’s piece for Spiked was awesome; that’s just the kind of writing I love, and it makes Harding look a witless toad. I actually remember the incident when Harding was denied entry to Russia because – for lack of a better explanation – his papers were not in order; Sean covered it at Sean’s Russia Blog. His pals in journalism made him sound some sort of hero, as if he barely escaped with his life after fighting his way out in a hail of gunfire.

          Outside that, I’ve paid more or less no attention to him at all, but maybe I’ve been neglecting a great source of material! I really wanted to rip up Ed Lucas, and it sounds like it wouldn’t even be hard (I read a piece in which he complimented the FSB on their sense of humour; he said that when they were moving back from Russia, some pieces of their equipment were taken from their luggage, and old James Bond paperbacks were left in their place), but he just hasn’t done anything interesting that’s recent, and I’m not about to buy his stupid book. I’m still planning to do a post on Belkovsky and “Putin’s Billions”, but I’m waiting for a reply from Surgutneftegaz.

          • If you’re going to do Lucas, make sure you include his explicit comparisons of Russia to Mordor. (On a message board posting that I assume he thought would remain private. It leaked out and I published it before it before it was lost to cyberspace).

            • marknesop says:

              Anne APPLEBAUM as Galadriel??? Has he seen Anne Applebaum?? And let’s not forget where “Mordor’s dirty money” began its journey.

              Boy, he really got into it, didn’t he? A map and everything. Perhaps the only nugget of interest in all that sexually-repressed-schoolboy rubbish was the suggestion that the Americans will never completely withdraw from Europe while they are needed to fight the forces of Mordor. A lesson Putin could learn from Sauron – there were no foreign NGO’s in Mordor.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            As regards Harding’s complimenting the FSB on its sense of humour, he is perhaps unaware of the sense of humour of his fellow countrymen who were responsible for the choice of award bestowed upon former KGB colonel and “resident-designate” bureau chief at the London Soviet Embassy, the defector Oleg Gordievsky, who from 1974 to 1985 was acting as a double agent for the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).

            Gordievsky, now a British citizen, is still regularly wheeled out from his retirement in the UK by his controllers in order to sow disinformation about matters Russian such as, in recent years, the Litvinenko case.

            It was Gordievsky who, in one of his many publications, claimed in 1995 that former British Labour party leader Michael Foot had been a KGB “agent of influence”. As a consequence of this accusation, Foot received substantial out-of-court damages.

            In 2005, Gordievsky had a letter published in the British Daily Telegraph, in which he accused the BBC of being “The Red Service”, writing:

            “Just listen with attention to the ideological nuances on Radio 4, BBC television, and the BBC World Service, and you will realise that communism is not a dying creed.”

            In the 2007 Birthday Honours list of the British Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II, Gordievsky was appointed Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) for “services to the security of the United Kingdom”.

            The humour in the giving of such an award to double-agent Gordievsky lies in the fact that this was the same honour bestowed upon Gordievsky’s fictional Cold War colleague, James Bond.

            • marknesop says:

              Wow. Special Agent Gordievsky; licensed to kill, provided the “hit zone” is wheelchair-accessible. Why do these guys always defect to England? Have they never seen a brochure for California?

              The west only hates Communism because it didn’t think of it itself. If it had originated in Washington or London it would have been “an idea whose time had not yet come” or something like that. And it’s hard to call such a system “flawed from the outset” if you had to mobilize the entire world to contest it. Personally, I’m glad the world went with Democracy instead of Communism, but I think we’ve all seen democracy’s imperfections from time to time.

              The BBC, Communist sympathizers. I guess everybody has a crazy old uncle in the basement, chained up to an old oilfield drillbit. I know Yalensis has, I met him once.

              • yalensis says:

                Hey you, stop spreading rumors about my family! My crazy Uncle Vanya is only chained up in the basement PART of the day. The rest of the time he is allowed to run free in the forest, au naturel. His thick pelt of back hair allows him to survive even the coldest of winters.

          • Richard Rogan says:

            “Richard de Lacy’s piece for Spiked was awesome; that’s just the kind of writing I love, and it makes Harding look a witless toad. ”

            OK, let me guess: you, like Richard de Lacy, have not read Luke Harding’s book Mafia State in full, if at all, and you dislike Mr Harding because he writes some uncomfortable and uncomplimentary stuff about the Kremlin. Rather, I suspect, like Mr Lacy himself, to judge by his article, For those of us who have read this book I’m afraid the “witless toad” tag applies rather to de Lacy.
            By the way the online world is stuffed with bigoted blogs like this, and normally I wouldn’t waste my time reading or replying to it but sometimes the temptation is just too strong :-)

            Richard Rogan

  5. Mark,

    I’ve been following Ryzhkov for many years. If I may say so, his major problem is that he chooses wrong friends. Among the Kasparov-Kasyanov-Nemtsov gang, he’s the only guy that gives an impression of being a sane man (I listened to his talk at Harvard a few years ago and spoke with him thereafter). Many in the opposition beaumonde despise him for being provincial; indeed he comes from the Altai region and still looks like a countryside teacher (which he actually is).

    Politically, Ryzhkov instinctively gravitates to more civilized forms of opposition. When he and Kasparov parted ways at the Committee 2008, Kasparov proceeded with organizing a Civil Front (front!), whereas Ryzhkov moved to the Republican Party (party!). A nuance, I agree, but somewhat telling one.

    He used to be the youngest vice-speaker of the Duma and does display some negotiating abilities. That’s why he was chosen as one of the organizers of the protest actions: no one wanted to deal with Nemtsov or Kasyanov.

    One more thing to tell about him: for a Russian politician — especially for someone who was close to the privatization gang — he’s remarkably clean. (A cynic would say, this isn’t a sign of big brains in contemporary Russia.) So his frequent writing for your beloved Moscow Times at least partly reflects the fact that he needs money: Moscow is very expensive city:)


    • marknesop says:

      Hello, Zhenya; it’s great to see you here again! I envy you some of your contacts and your opportunities to actually speak with the people we’re talking about, and perhaps such an opportunity would lead to broader understanding. I’d have to say that of all Ryzhkov’s material I read (and it was a great deal more than I cited, but I didn’t want the post to be too long), about 20% of it was not disagreeable or argumentative at all – it made sense, and there’s no arguing Russia has problems. But his piece on Georgia was sarcastic and snide, plus he was about as wrong as a person can be. And he may well be clean himself, although I read on RussianMafia ( but didn’t quote it because there was no substantiation) that the Committee 2008 scheme was Ryzhkov’s idea, intended to draw large grants from deep-pocketed liberal sponsors like Khodorkovsky. But even if he is clean and sincere, there’s something about him of the burning, sanctimonious zealot, like a young Eliot Ness. It’s all very well to complain all the time that the government is made up of corrupt Quislings who can’t get anything done, but that’s easy when you don’t have to show you can do better. Instead of writing smarmy sarcastic articles – that doubtless bring adoring slobbering from the like of Yevgenia Albats and Yulia Latynina – about how the government is a bunch of failures because they can’t build a road directly from Vladivostok to Moscow, why not study the problem? That’s nearly 6,500 kilometers; a pretty long road. What’s the terrain like in between? Does the Russian traveling public think it needs a road and the Trans-Siberian Railway to cover the same route? How many travelers would use it in a year, and how long would it take to pay for itself in terms of convenience or savings realized? What sort of income generators might it inspire? How many people might be employed, for how long, and what might maintenance requirements look like to keep it open through harsh weather? There are probably a lot of places along a 6,500 km route where you could get stranded for days.

      As I say, it’s all very well, if you know nothing at all about building roads, to cite the continuing unavailability of a direct highway between Moscow and Vladivostok as just another symbol of government failure. But it’s quite possible the “failures” in government have already studied it, solicited the opinions of professional tradesmen and route planners, and decided there is a compelling reason or reasons not to do it. His rhetoric sounds too much to me like that of someone who is just trying to rouse others, to make them say truculently, “Yeah – why is that???” and get something going that will make trouble. If he took the approach I described, it would not only be more difficult for the government to duck the problem (assuming his investigation suggested the road could and should be built), he would gain significantly more credibility rather than sounding like a liberal whiner. And I say that from the perspective of someone who is about as liberal as can be imagined in my own politics (I laughed out loud when Alex referred to me as “right wing” on your blog).

      • Eugene says:


        I agree with you, but on a larger scale, what troubles me is how rapidly Ryzhkov had become a “radical,” given the fact that before, while in the Duma, he was a “moderate.” The same with Kasyanov. No, no, and no, I’m not going to defend him. Yet, he was Putin’s first PM and regardless of what Putin says about him now, was in charge of the real liberal reforms of the whole Putin’s presidency. After being fired, he reportedly asked Putin to do some “non-political” projects, but was turned down. Now, he’s a “radical” too.

        On the other hand, take Belykh. He was given the governorship in Kirov and he’s now doing, IMO, remarkably good job here — while still being (moderately) critical of the Kremlin. A couple of years ago, the governorship of the Altai Krai — where Ryzhkov is from — got vacant. I wondered back then whether he was offered it or not. (For I believe that the guy he was a vice-speaker of the Duma deserves better than building a road between Moscow and Vladivostok — with all due respect to your idea:)) Who knows, we could have had one fewer “radical” now.

        Without taking any blame from the opposition, my question is: does the Kremlin do everything possible NOT to create radical opposition? Why the choice is almost always being either in power or in radical opposition? Why there is no “normal” opposition in Russia? And, naturally, by “normal” I don’t mean the one that is now in the Duma.

        • grafomanka says:

          In post communist europe, in Poland for example, a certain mix of reformers, former dissidents, ex communist and smaller populist parties that went into coalitions & oversaw privatisation. They did good things – joined the EU, improved living standards, but they also were incredibly corrupt (I guess the temptation was tool strong). It took time, both for politicians to emerge from the system and establish brand new parties, for electorate to learn how not to be fooled by empty populism and for media to mature and ask the relevant questions. So for a long time there was talk about “the group that holds the power” and some outsider parties were establish explicitly to challange it (they eventually succeded)
          If in Russia “the group that holds the power” are UR & people in so called ‘systemic opposition’ – no party is being allowed to rise and chellenge them as yet.

          • cartman says:

            I think the Civic Platform of Poland is really empty of ideology, much like United Russia. Poles who were sick of the populism of PiS voted them in (although PiS was a rather interesting break from the numbing neoliberalism of the rest of the parties.)

            In fact, Europe is a mix of rather bland placeholder parties (like the German Greens run by an energy lobbyist) and previously marginal populists (True Finns).

            • grafomanka says:

              it’s a classic centrist-conservative party, for example, Civic Platform won recent election tho they didn’t promise any spending (other parties were promising showers of spending)! Both PiS and Civin Platform got popular on anty-corruption, challenging the establihment etc (after mega corruption scandal involving an oligarch who, saying that he representes ‘the group that holds the power’ wanted to buy the legislation that would then make it possible for him buy independent TV station).

        • marknesop says:

          This is just the sort of reasoned and cerebral reply I expected to get from you, Eugene. I would not be too quick to suggest Ryzhkov is a radical; not yet. As I suggested, some of his commentary is sound and reasonable and does not ask for unrealistic behavior on the part of the government, simply the kind of performance every citizen has a right to expect. On the protests, it feels to me like he’s just excited, like he thinks he’s finally “sticking it to the man”. I hope he won’t be too disappointed if it comes to nothing much.

          The road to Moscow scenario was just an example of problem-solving versus whining. It’s easier for the Kremlin response to be, “Mr. Ryzhkov obviously knows nothing about road construction or project costing” if he just says “why, oh why can’t the government provide a road from Vladivostok to Moscow?” (which is just what he did say, plainly sneering at what a bunch of incompetent pretenders the government is if they can’t satisfy his request). If complaints came in the form of (1) state the problem, in terms everyone can understand, (2) ideally, offer several options for solving it, and prioritize them in order of most desirable to least desirable (3) provide costs and logistic requirements for each option, which will help readers understand why what they thought was the best solution was perhaps not (costs, etc…), and (4) list your references that you consulted for professional opinions, the government would have a lot harder time just blowing it off, because readers would want to know why.

          When you clearly state the problem, and then solve it for the government, even providing a range of options so they can see where trade-offs on costs might be made while giving up only minor capability, it’s a lot harder to say “no, we’re not doing it”. Because you get your constituents on you’re side; they’re not just saying “no” to you any more.

          No, the government certainly does not do everything possible not to create radical opposition. And to my mind, the process above is the most likely to succeed, because it wins supporters. People say, “wait a minute; why not? his reasoning seems sound to me”. But everyone is so afraid that if they come up with a good idea to solve a problem, the government will simply pretend it was their idea in the first place, and reap the benefits. The best way to get elected when you’re in opposition is to make the people furious with the government, not delighted. In this fashion, democratic nations everywhere have drifted away from the concept of a “loyal opposition”: in place to keep the government honest, yes, but also a bipartisan pillar to support the government when it’s right, and to do what’s best for the country rather than the party or yourself. That’s what public service was always supposed to be about – sacrifice of the individual in subordination to the common dream. But now, it’s all “the ruling party is brilliant, you’d be nowhere without them” from the ruling party, and “the ruling party are idiots and dangerous incompetents” (or thieves and swindlers, if you prefer) from the opposition. The electorate, on the sidelines, makes its decision on emotions rather than facts, because it doesn’t get any of the latter. And that’s just what it’s encouraged to do, which is why elections are run of patriotism and outrage rather than analysis.

  6. yalensis says:

    This is continuation of thread started by kievite at the end of Mark’s previous blog, in relation to the Stephen Cohen interview.
    @kievite: Once again you have found an excellent source, and I agree everybody should listen to Cohen’s analysis. Some people might discount Cohen because of his past ties to Gorbachov (and also his Russophobic wife, Katrina Vanden Heuvel), but if one can overlook those matters, Cohen still makes a lot of excellent points.
    In the last 5 minutes of interview, Cohen gets into the issue of privatizations aka theft of public wealth, that occurred during Yeltsin/Putin era, and I believe this economic issue is key to understanding all this political turmoil surrounding the elections. As Cohen himself states (at 16:45 in): “The [Russian] nation doesn’t accept the privatization of property that occurred in the 1990’s.” And: “The reason the people who control the financial oligarchy in Russia don’t want free elections is they know that if they had free elections to a parliament, the people would vote for candidates pledging to confiscate their property. This is the main obstacle [to democracy in Russia].”

    Cohen never mentions Navalny, but I would insert my own impression that the class struggle in Russia is heating up now, with people lining up on two sides: leftists who want to undo the Yeltsin privatizations of natural resources vs. Navalnyites who want to (legitimize but regulate) the privatizations of the 90’s. With Tsar Putin as a third force, standing in between and trying to compromise between the two sides.

    Here is repeat of link to Cohen interview:


    • apc27 says:

      Russians may not like or accept the results of the 1990s privatizations, but they will have to live with them, as the possibility of another round of “отобрать и поделить” in Russia (that’s the famous Communist revolutionary slogan of seizing and sharing the ill-gotten wealth of the bourgeois) ought to scare any sensible person witless.

      Oligarchs may well be corrupt bastards with no morals or common decency, but they are very capable predators of the human jungle. Probably none of them would have been able to amass their vast fortunes without being willing and ABLE to do anything, and I do mean anything, to steal it in the first place and then protect it against their rivals.

      The kind of sh…storm they will undoubtedly create to protect their loot is, for everyone concerned, best left in the realm of nightmares, never to be seen in real life. Look at how much damage a single disgruntled oligarch like Berezovsky is able to inflict on the Russian state. Can you even imagine what would happen if there were a hundreds of Berezovskies causing trouble not only outside, but inside Russia as well?

      That is why I believe that while this topic is significant, it would never be allowed to be adopted as a campaign theme of any serious political party. To flirt with these notions, to play with these feelings of the electorate would amount to taking a risk with the very existence of the Russian state. Putin would be stupid and irresponsible NOT to clampdown on anyone who seeks to capitalize on this theme.

      • Alex says:

        Well, while it won’t be a quite substantiated opinion , mostly because I was not acquainted personally with real “oligarchs” , but the businessmen I knew never suffered from the excess of brain – or for that matter, any other noticeable virtues. An approximation I use is that under “capitalism” the money are never earned (eg. because one is “good”, “better” “works hard” etc ) – they are either given to you- if someone “likes” you, or taken from you (if you don’t look after them for one or another reason :) ) or , the money can be taken (from others) by you – if you a scumbag (to one or another degree). Perhaps, there is a talent to be the latter, but I doubt it represents a danger to others – if one knows what to expect. So the wealth is not correlated with any abilities, especially – intellectual.

    • marknesop says:

      I don’t believe candidates would get anywhere pledging to confiscate the wealth of the oligarchs. Although they bought the assets they acquired at knock-down prices, few were turn-key operations and nearly all required some investment before they could be said to be worth the staggering sums they later were, and net worth of everything was sliding so fast it’d be difficult to say with certainty now what everything was worth then. Trying to get them back now would be like trying to reclaim Exxon-Mobil from its owners based on their usurious profits brought about by the Iraq War. That’s not the same as saying they were honest business deals, at all, but I can’t imagine what legal vehicle would be used to confiscate them now, and if such action appeared likely, those still living in Russia would simply flee to the west (I hear London has a nice oligarch expat community), taking all their wealth with them. If it’s so easy to get it back once it’s out of the country, how does Berezovsky keep being a pain in the ass with his billions?

      Ukraine has a similar problem, in which some 80% of GDP is in the private hands of about a dozen individuals and their families. You can imagine the catastrophe if the government announced plans to turn that wealth back to the state, and those individuals took their money and ran. And in order to use it as an election issue, you’d have to announce your plan in advance. Otherwise, it’d be easier – and might work – to just do it and talk about it later.

      • yalensis says:

        Maybe Putin could trick the oligarchs into returning to Moscow all together, bringing all their cash. Some kind of sting operation — like, for example, in Casino Royale. Set up a high-stakes black-tie poker tournament that only oligarchs are invited to. They are fed free drinks and caviar, and have valet parking for their Rolls Royces. As the night goes on, they are tricked into wagering all their cash, and they lose all their money. (Because Putin cheats.) Ha ha!

        • The subject of nationalisation is a fascinating one and one that brings out all the contradictions in western reporting of Russia. For the west and for the western media and commentariat in particular the touchstone of reform in Russia is privatisation. For a large proportion of the Russian people including significantly a substantial proportion of the people who protested on 10th and 24th December 2011, meaningful reform involves reversing the privatisation that has already taken place and which is universally believed to have been corrupt. That this is what many of the protesters want is shown by Kasparov’s comments at the rally on 24th December 2011, when he condemned the privatisations, and even by some of Navalny’s comments Navalny in the interview Yalensis has reported.

          In other words the west’s conception of reform is quite different from that of many (most?) Russians whilst it supports a protest movement many (most?) of whose members want to put into reverse that which is the west’s central demand.

          As to whether nationalisation is feasible, the short is that it is. The number of people who would directly stand to lose by it is small and these people suffer from the handicap that Russian society detests them. Their capacity to resist a determined programme of nationalisation is therefore limited whilst because of the extent to which the Russian government already controls the economy the amount of disruption a nationalisation programme would cause would also be quite limited. In fact the one overriding obstacle to such a programme is the overwhelmingly negative reaction of the west, which would surely have the effect of severely reducing the inward investment into Russia that the Russian government is trying so hard to attract.

          • marknesop says:

            As usual, Alex, your comments are among the most intriguing and thought-provoking. You’re quite right that when the west speaks of reform, as long as it’s speaking of legal and economic reform, it’s talking about privatization and loosening of state control, particularly over the energy sector. But we’ve seen how it proceeds with smaller countries that won’t relax control; it simply finds a convenient excuse for regime change, and topples their government.

            The uber-wealthy in Russia might be small in number, but they are large in influence. If Putin told them to stay out of politics, he did them a favour.

          • yalensis says:

            I believe a program of nationalization is feasible, risk-free, and violence-free, provided it is done in stages, starting with the huge ones that truly do belong to all citizens (like natural resources, oil, gas, minerals, waterways, major infrastructure, etc.). Even some capitalist countries have done this sometimes in the past, especially under Labour governments. Chavez has carried out such a plan in Venezuela (a major oil producer), battling against his own oligarchs. This plan does not affect small businesses or personal property. (Nobody is talking about collectivizing chicken coops any more, in the Stalin manner.) Such a program would be hugely popular among Russian citizens, but would require major political chops to carry out, due to expected Western opposition. West has staked all its bets on Khodorkovsky returning to YUKOS and handing controlling shares in Russia’s oil to Western companies like British Petroleum. If Navalny were to come to power, this is surely what would happen.

            • apc27 says:

              I do believe that is quiet a bit of wistful thinking on your part. With every single major political faction in Russia, possessing a HUGE stake in the current distribution of property ownership, INTERNAL opposition to major nationalisation programme would be such that any noise from the West would be simply irrelevant.

              I mean, do tell if you know of any political grouping in Russia that would be interested in a major nationalisation programme. Siloviki? Unlikely, they have plenty of oligarchs of their own. Liberal-technocrats? Also unlikely, since they don’t really like the concept in the first place. Bureaucrats? Maybe, since it would bring more capital flows under their direct controls… but with all of the cash being funnelled by big business to their higher echelons there is simply no interest on their part for such an action. Putin himself? I do not know, though to me personally he seems to be more exasperated with the management of state run enterprises, than he is with oligarchs. At least the latter could be focused by a few well placed threats and promises of carrots. Dealing with the Russian bureaucracy on the other hand… Russia Bureaucracy, need I say more?

              So if you do know of any compelling reasons why nationalisation in Russia would be successful beyond public support, since lets be honest, there are plenty of things popular in Russia which will never get done, I would like to hear them.

              • yalensis says:

                Thanks @apc, unfortunately you are corerct that very few political forces in Russia support nationalizations, and those that do lack the power to implement. As in Ukraine, the struggle is more to SLOW DOWN the privatizations rather than attempt to roll them back, which is much more difficult. KPRF platform supposedly opposes and seeks to roll back privatizations, but we all know the Communists are weak and not completely trustworthy. ALTHOUGH… if the Duma elections had been clean, there is a real chance KPRF could have accrued enough seats in parliament to force UR into coalition government and thus had more clout in the economic sphere. UR ruling by itself is certainly not going to re-nationalize resources, they are too tied in with the oligarchs. UNLESS… there were a Khodorkovsky type situation where a powerful oligarch began to threaten Kremlin power and national sovereignty. This is what happened in Venezuela too, where Chavez faced some challenges similar to those faced by Putin. Chavez is of course much more of an ideological leftist than Putin, who is not a leftist at all; but even so, some of the major Chavez nationalizations were done more for political than for ideological reasons..

                • Dear Alex,

                  Thanks for your comment. What I would say in response is the following:

                  1. I do not know how serious they are but judging at least from Zyuganov’s latest speech to the KPRF Congress as reproduced on the party’s website the KPRF at least are calling for a measure of renationalisation. Shortly after the election I hosted in London a Russian businessman who is a supporter of the KPRF and he told me at length how the KPRF could reorganise the company structure in Russia to create a measure of public ownership. Obviously I do not know how representative he is of opinion within the KPRF.

                  2. In my previous comment I said that nationalisation is feasible, which it definitely is. That is not the same thing as saying it will happen. Nor by the way is it the same thing as saying that it should happen.

                  3. As a non Russian with no connection to the country I am very reluctant to enter into discussions about what Russians should or should not do to shape the economic future of their country. It seems to me that these are decisions that only Russians can make. I think it is generally fair to say that whenever over the last century Russia has acted on external advice the results have been bad. I feel that the same applies to the question of nationalisation versus privatisation.

                  4. What I would say is that I can completely understand why though nationalisation is definitely feasible a Russian government might decide that it is simply not worth the trouble. The Russian government exercises a degree of control over the economy that arguably makes nationalisation unnecessary. It was quite obvious to me at least during the worst period of the crisis in 2008/2009 who was calling the shots with Putin happily giving orders to Deripaska about how Deripaska should run his own car factories and Deripaska scrambling to carry them out. In the summer of 2009 the Russian bank tried to blackmail the Russian government into giving them large sums of money by spreading scare stories of a collapse because of non performing loans. Instead of being intimidated by this sort of talk (as governments in the west tend to be) the Russian blew the Russian bank a metaphorical raspberry by basically telling them to get lost. Sure enough the predicted collapse of the Russian banking system (confidently predicted by amongst others the Financial Times) failed to take place. The KPRF supporting Russian businessman I told you about reminded me that taxation when used in a certain way could amount to a form of public ownership and it might be that this is the route that a future Russian government that was following a more openly leftist agenda would prefer to follow.

                  5. A Russian government that took this course might be wise to do so. I understand that the largest number of questions during Putin’s recent television marathon concerned matters of social policy followed by housing. I suspect that healthcare, education, prices and jobs also feature pretty high. I get the impression that though most Russians loathe the oligarchs and would be delighted to see the back of them renationalisation is not for most of them a major priority. Though I suspect that most Russians would support a nationalisation programme if one were efficiently and fairly carried out a future Russian government might decide that it was better advised saving its energy and focusing its attention on those matters that Russians most care about rather than waste its time pursuing a nationalisation programme that was both costly and unnecessary.

                • marknesop says:

                  You are closest to the mark, at least in my opinion, when you say nationalization is not a priority because the government retains state control over what are deemed strategic assets. This includes the whole of the energy sector, and some raw materials and unfinished goods. I believe Putin would very much like to see something like the domestic auto production industry take off, although that probably won’t happen, and I could see something like that bought out by a foreign company and being allowed to buy in as majority shareholder. And it could probably turn a profit; the latest vehicles are not bad, and there is an appetite for made-in-Russia products. But such cars could probably not compete with, say, Japanese cars unless they were priced at the entry level. I’m not sure how WTO membership is going to affect Russian industry, but I suspect there will be great pressure on Russia to open its markets to foreign goods, while there is not a corresponding eagerness for Russian finished goods in trade-partner nations. The same people shrill that Russia can never be competitive because it only exports commodities and raw materials (which is not entirely true), but none of them is eager to see that change.

                  In short, the sectors that matter to national security are already de facto nationalized. Further nationalization would be mostly cosmetic, and for the purpose of putting a thumb in the west’s eye: unnecessary.

                  I imagine that now Russia is a WTO member, thought will turn to how it can best be exploited and taken advantage of. There is money to be made if foreign partners are willing to accept a reasonable profit, but what some western businessmen dream about is crazy profits like those for the taking during the Yeltsin privatizations. Hopefully future leaders of Russia will not be the patsies Yeltsin was.

  7. yalensis says:

    Link to transcript of Navalry radio interview:


    This is translation of just a small portion, that segment dealing with Khodorkovsky and the privatizations of Russian natural resources.
    Russian text:

    Е.АЛЬБАЦ: Еще звонок.

    СЛУШАТЕЛЬ: Александр, из Екатеринбурга. Думаю, что вопрос освобождения Ходорковского после выборов, – скажем, виртуальные выборы вас президентом, – вопрос решенный. А дальше что, как будет выглядеть его реабилитация? Будет ли ему выплачена компенсация за несправедливо отобранное имущество, будет ли возвращен ЮКОС, и если его считать прототипом жертвы этой системы – он не единственный такой, – как будет вообще выглядеть реабилитация жертв Путинского режима?

    А.НАВАЛЬНЫЙ: Во-первых, кстати говоря, – про президентские выборы, сейчас всем кандидатам задают этот вопрос, они говорят – я помилую Ходорковского. Вот это мне кажется какой-то чушью. Даже тем, кто невнимательно следил за делом Ходорковского понятно, что по второму процессу он не нуждается в помиловании. Второй процесс по Ходорковскому было просто надругательством над правосудием. Он нам может нравиться, не нравиться, – там были налоговые нарушения, – он за них отсидел, и отсидел очень много, – у нас за убийство столько не сидят. Второй процесс был абсолютной фикцией. И здесь вопрос о том, что нужно разбираться, почему его неправосудно посадили, кто его посадил, кто давал эти указания судье, и мы знаем, что сейчас уже есть свидетельства о том, что там под диктовку писали приговор, – поэтому Ходорковский не нуждается в помиловании. А есть необходимость провести разбирательство того, как был проведен этот процесс, наказать виновных, а его отпустить, как неправосудно осужденного. А дальше, что касается ЮКОСа – мы должны отдельно разбираться, это вопрос правительства будущего. Были у него нарушения, – почему сидел Ходорковский, но почему рядом не сидел Абрамович, почему не сидел рядом с ним Дерипаска, и почему все остальные, кто делал ровно такие же налоговые нарушения, не были наказаны.

    Е.АЛЬБАЦ: Вы собираетесь сажать олигархов?

    А.НАВАЛЬНЫЙ: Я собираюсь сделать так, чтобы суды и правоохранительные органы привлекали к ответственности тех, кто нарушал закон. Если сроки давности не истекли, то конечно, это вопрос права, вопрос социальной справедливости, – конечно, все, кто нарушал, должны быть наказаны. Ходорковский нарушал – отсидел. Кто-то продолжает делать ровно то же самое, со всеми этими сырьевыми схемами, и они покупают при этом яхты, футбольные команды и все остальное – их никто не трогает. Закон для всех один. Это абсолютная банальность, но почему-то в нашей стране это политическое решение. Какое здесь может быть политическое решение? Так оно и должно быть.

    Е.АЛЬБАЦ: Правда, приватизация происходила в конкретной системе, существовали конкретные законы.

    А.НАВАЛЬНЫЙ: Совершенно верно. На этот счет тоже есть механизмы решения этих проблем. В Британии был применен так называемый «налог на порыв ветра» – налог на сверхдоходы. Это не значит, что нужно отнимать. Но если ты купил «Норильский никель», условно говоря, за сто миллионов долларов, а сейчас он стоит 8 миллионов, – можно привлечь консультантов и правильно это все посчитать, и обосновать, и мы считаем, что это должно быть обложено налогом в 65%, – взять и законно у всех взять налоги. Пусть у каких-то людей будет не 16 млрд., а один, но это будет абсолютно законный один миллиард. Потому что все наши состояния олигархов сейчас это абсолютно виртуальная штука: сегодня у тебя есть, а завтра у тебя могут отнять, – при полной поддержке ста процентов населения. Потому что все эти состояния нелегитимны, их нужно тоже легитимизировать. Пусть будет меньше, но абсолютно законно, и собственность станет священной.

    English translation:
    Albats: Another caller.
    Caller: [Hello, this is] Alexander, from Ekaterinburg. I think that the question of freeing Khodorkovsky after the elections, assuming there were virtual elections and you [were elected] President, is already decided. And beyond that, what will his [Khodorkovsky’s] rehabilitation look like? Will he be given compensation for the property that was illegally taken away from him? Will YUKOS be returned to him? And if one regards him as the prototype victim of this system – he is not the only such victim, after all – then what will the rehabilitation of victims of the Putin regime look like?
    Navalny: First of all, and by the way, regarding presidential elections, all the candidates are being asked that same question, and they [all] say, “I will pardon Khodorkovsky.” To me that is nonsense. Even those who barely followed the Khodorkovsky case understand that in regard to the second trial, he does not need a pardon. Khodorkovsky’s second trial was simply a joke. You can like or dislike him, there were tax infringements, he served his time for those, he served a lot of time, more time than even a murderer gets. The second trial was a complete farce. And here one needs to figure out why they imprisoned him illegally, who imprisoned him, who gave these instructions to the judge, and we know that there is evidence that his sentence was dictated – therefore Khodorkovsky is not in need of a pardon. And we need to investigate how this trial was conducted, and to punish the guilty parties, and to release him [Khodorkovsky] as one who was unfairly convicted. And further.. as concerns YUKOS, well, this is a matter for the future government to figure out. If there were infringements, then why did Khodorkovsky go to jail but not Abramovich or Deripaska and all the others who committed exactly the same tax infringements but were not punished.
    Albats: You are planning to throw [these] oligarchs in jail?
    Navalny: I intend to see that the courts and legal organs bring to justice those who broke the law. Assuming the statutes of limitation have not run out, that of course is a question of the law, a question of social justice – naturally, all those who broke the law should be punished. Khodorkovsky broke the law – and served his time. Whoever continues to do [what he did] with all those natural-resource schemes, and they use this to buy yachts, soccer teams and all the rest – and nobody touches them. The law should be the same for everybody. That sounds absolutely banal, but for some reason in our country that is a political decision. Why should it be a political decision?
    Albats: Well, privatization took place within a concrete system, with concrete laws.
    Navalny: Very true. And by the same token there is a mechanism to resolve these problems. In Britain they implemented a so-called “windfall tax” on surplus-profits. I am not saying we need to adopt [this law]. However, if you purchased “Norilsk Nickel”, let’s say, for 100 million dollars, and now it is worth 8 million [sic – I think he meant 800 million]– let’s say we bring in consultants and count it up correctly, and we decide there should be a 65% tax, then take it, and tax everybody the same, lawfully.
    [Let us make it so that] certain people own, not 16 billion, but one billion, but let that be a completely legal one billion. Because all the current holdings of the oligarchs right now are virtual: today you own them, but tomorrow they [the government] might take it away from you, with the complete support of 100% of the population. Because all these holdings are illegitimate, (so) it is necessary to legitimize them. Let [the individual’s wealth] be less, but completely legal, and [that way] private property will become sacred.

  8. cartman says:

    I just wanted too show you something kind of funny. Simon Shuster wrote this article for the Huffington Post because he is just SURE that the Kremlin is going to murder this young judge and blame it on the protesters:


    Now the young judge’s twitter picture:


    Maybe he is not the first to recall a resemblance between the two (but I do not see one at all). She must be laughing at him too.

    • marknesop says:

      I see there is a photo of what I assume is the real Judge Borokova on the right, under “recent pictures.” I would have to say there is a bit of a resemblance (mostly in hair colour and length), only it comes out quite favourably for Judge Borokova, who appears to be both more attractive and a good 10 years younger.

      In any case, she appears to have a sense of humour. I’m starting to like her.

      • zed244 says:

        Is this her sense of humor – “Судить меня будет только Бог”? ( It is amazing how much some people manage to tell about themselves in just one short phrase).

  9. yalensis says:

    Ha ha! somebody is playing a joke here. If you right-click on Borovkova’s Twitter photo and “File/Save”, it gives the name of the file as “sarah-palin_reasonably_small.jpg”
    Either Olga is impersonating Sarah Palin, or somebody has hacked her Twitter feed. Or maybe she is disguising her appearance because the Navalnyites are hunting her?

    • It’s a joke on her part.

      khvn РОКЕНРОЛ!!1 @Borovkova1 можно вопрос? а почему Сара Пэлин?

      Borovkova1 Olga Borovkova @khvn подруга как-то сказала, что я на нее очень похожа

  10. sinotibetan says:

    Dear Mark, kievite, yalensis, Alexander and all,

    This is just a short comment. In my earlier comment to kievite’s comment in Mark’s previous post, he/she alluded to my misunderstanding of the privatization issue in Russia and proceeded to post a website with Cohen’s analysis which yalensis reiterated in this post.

    It dawned to me , after following this blog for some time that there are many excellent commentators here with really exhaustive and extensive knowledge regarding the situation in Russia. I am not at all a ‘politics junkie’ like Mark but just someone with some interest and some knowledge(perhaps maybe just slightly more than the ‘average man on the street’) regarding all these things. I believe that most people are like my situation – some knowledge but not as extensive nor as well researched and well read as many of you. My interest in Russia is just because I am kinda a ‘Russophile’ as I have a profession which has little connection with social science, politics or economics.

    To cut it short, I wonder if this suggestion is not too ridiculous :
    A Russian blog and an English blog to be ‘promoted’ for the less erudite like myself and the majority. Mark’s blog can be that English blog.

    I think the political situation of countries actually depend on the ‘average man on the street’ – what he rightly or wrongly views ultimately determine the fate of nations. Far too often the wisest failed to change the world to a better place because the the wise gets wiser but they forget to ‘wisen up’ the ‘man on the street’. Is this a ridiculous thought?


    • marknesop says:

      I don’t think it’s ridiculous at all; however, there probably are several such blogs in Russian. Evgeny sent a list a couple of posts ago which I’ve been meaning to go through and put up in the blogroll, I just haven’t had the time.

      Politics as a form of leverage depends heavily on human ignorance and laziness. Perhaps I don’t give the Moscow protesters enough credit, but I believe many of them are there because they want a little excitement and to be part of some shouting and shoving, not to mention being the centre of breathless world attention. Another group is there because somebody convinced them they’re being shortchanged and that if they show anger their troubles will be immediately addressed. Some believe they should be part of the nation’s decision-making process, but have neither the time or the skills to make a significant contribution, and there’s nothing worse than a citizen who perceives his/her vote can stall the process and does so simply for attention – Congressional “holds” on presidential appointments in the U.S. is an excellent example of this, although those individuals are professional politicians rather than ordinary citizens. But likely the smallest group of all is the politically savvy, those aware of the issues and precisely the degree to which protest can influence them. Nonetheless, the entire group is portrayed, for propaganda purposes, as a huge crowd of politically-aware hipsters who know exactly what they want and just how to get it. That’s because it suits someone else’s agenda, far away, to portray them that way, in order to influence his electorate and foreign-policy machine.

      • sinotibetan says:

        Dear Mark,

        Thanks for the comment.
        1.)”…however, there probably are several such blogs in Russian. ”
        “Perhaps I don’t give the Moscow protesters enough credit,….”
        Juxtaposing these two statements together, then you are reasonably well justified with regards to the Moscow protesters. Till today, I see no justification at all for any further protest by any disgruntled Russians regarding the Duma elections because:-
        a.)UR won but at a much lesser margin.
        b.)The Russian presidential election is another event altogether and since Duma sittings continue to proceed after the protests(meaning the main oppositions like the Communist Party etc. practical-wise ‘accepts’ the Duma election results), there’s no reason to continue protesting when the majority of opposition politicians have ‘accepted’ the outcome.
        To be honest, I think the ‘protest mode’ is getting tiresome to most Russians.
        If Putin can demonstrate that the Presidential elections have very little irregularities and restore the credibility of the electoral process among the “politically savvy group” of protesters, then I think the likelihood of protests against the results of the Presidential elections(which I think Putin will still win)would fizzle out.

        2.)”That’s because it suits someone else’s agenda, far away, to portray them that way, in order to influence his electorate and foreign-policy machine.”
        Indeed. I wonder if recent increased protests in China are also as covert such as these:-



        3.)I really enjoy your blog and I think it would be THE English blog I’d recommend for anyone interested in the situation in Russia(to be honest though, Anatoly’s blog is a ‘tie’ – more like your’s and Anatoly’s blog as ‘the English blogs’ I’d recommend). Hope yours and Anatoly’s blog get more ‘promotion’ in the networld for those of us who don’t know Russian to counter the biased reporting so widespread in the English media and blogosphere. Without your blogs and the few that seek to give a more balanced view, most non-Russian readers would be misinformed by ‘mainstream’ English media reporting about Russia.

        4.)”I just haven’t had the time.”
        Same here which leads to my paucity of comments of late.


        • marknesop says:

          Good Morning, Sino-T! It’s good to see you back, and thank you for the kind words.

          We will see very quickly if Russians are getting tired of protest, because every reasonable attempt will be made to whip them into a fury prior to the next scheduled demonstration, and Navalny and Ryzhkov are hoping for a million people. Considering what the protests have drawn so far, that’s a tall order – but they absolutely have to have increases every time to preserve the momentum and the impression of “gathering anger”.

          Which is why I think it was a tactical error to leave such a long period of relative dormancy before the next event. And why are the protests and rallies even scheduled in the first place? If Russians felt an overwhelming rage against their government such as is described in the western media, you wouldn’t be able to keep them off the streets; spontaneous protest would erupt everywhere, and civil disobedience would swell until eventually it flashed into violence (which Navalny seems to want very badly; I think he’s a bit of a nut). This series of events has much of the air of carefully stage-managed and manufactured dissent about it.

          If, as I understood Kievite to suggest, the protesters contain significant numbers of those reliant on social benefits who feel entitled to their slice of the pie, it would put quite a different spin on the events overall. Because that’s not how it’s being sold in the western media – according to their story, the protesters are mostly young people; “hipsters”, the west has fallen into the habit of calling them, which I remember as a jeans style from the 70’s. To them, so the story goes, Navalny is a grizzled wolf although he’s only, what, in his 30’s? For their part, they are the young and ambitious crowd on the leading edge of new management, but denied opportunity because of Russia’s ossified bureaucracy and creaking infrastructure – if Russia were only in the hands of their generation, it would become young and vibrant and flourishing, with lots of great jobs and high salaries. Navalny is their inspiration because they can see what they want their country to be so clearly, but don’t know how to get it. Navalny is the magic key that will unlock their dream Russia.

          I agree that’s totally not how it looks, but that’s the western narrative in a nutshell.

  11. rkka says:

    “I’m not sure how WTO membership is going to affect Russian industry, but I suspect there will be great pressure on Russia to open its markets to foreign goods, while there is not a corresponding eagerness for Russian finished goods in trade-partner nations.”

    Mark, I’ve been thinking about this, and have concluded that the WTO is less of a threat to Russian industry than I thought. If the GoR takes measures to protect a domestic industry that violates the WTO, the effected countries are allowed to counter with measures against Russian exports. But with Russia exporting mostly raw materials and energy, such measures will have trivial effect on Russia. There will always be eager customers for energy and non-ferrous metals. The WTO creates a vulnerability for Russia only to the extent that it facilitates Russian exports of value-added finished goods. And if it does, it will have been a Good Thing for Russia, helping to diversify Russia’s exports. If it doesn’t, it really can’t do Russia harm, because the GoR will then be able to take whatever action is needed to protect the domestic industry, confident that the counteraction allowed by the WTO will have trivial effect..

    • marknesop says:

      I originally though it would be a strong benefit to Russian industry, because it would force modernization of business practices and quality control to come together in products that are made for a more critical audience. But experience suggests anything that can be used as an influence against Russia, will be used as an influence against Russia. Western critics constantly carp about Russia being only an exporter of raw materials, but it doesn’t need the WTO for that. It facilitates the movement of finished goods, but my point is that European nations will pressure Russia to accept large consignments of European goods – which it can probably sell easily – while those nations will likely consider much of Russia’s finished-goods market to be uncompetitive in their own country. This, if it comes to pass, will not be a benefit to Russia and will instead contribute to a serious trade imbalance. But we’ll see; it’s early days yet, and nobody in Europe has much spare money to throw around. It’s quite conceivable the increased trade in finished goods will result in interest in acquiring some of Russia’s small and medium businesses on the part of neighbouring nations, and that would be a benefit.

  12. yalensis says:

    Continuing thread above (which got too skinny) discussion of privatization/re-nationalizations. As usual, Mercouris made an awesomely perspicacious comment that I wish I had said, and Mark’s reply is also excellent. To all that I just want to add one point, which is that “nationalization” is not always a dramatic watershed event with red flags flying that inevitably leads to class war. Sometimes it even happens quietly and under the radar. Alex mentioned tax policies and government purchase of owning shares. That is how nationalization is really done in the modern world. Boring but effective.
    In even the most capitalist of all capitalist countries, the USA, there was a weird moment, back in 2008 (final months of Bush presidency), when American government ALMOST nationalized several major banking institutions (including Fannie/Freddie, and even Bank of America) plus a major auto manufacturer. This being America, it never really happened (and the pro-oligarchic Tea Party was created as a political response to this threat), but nobody can deny there had been that one moment.
    In America the oligarchy is way more powerful than the government, and the government merely does the bidding of the oligarchy. In Russia, due to well-known historical reasons, the government, while mostly a tool of the oligarchs, also does still have an independent existence, hence there is a continuous delicate struggle as to who is on top. The Putinist system is that of a regulated oligarchy, under which the government still retains a lot of power and can set limits for the oligarchs and bankers. The oligarchs can sleep at night, but they have to sleep with one eye open, never feeling completely secure that their property is truly their property (and can be passed on to their offspring).
    Now, bringing this comment to a close by re-introducing Navalny, it is clear that the Navalnyite movement seeks to make Russia more like America in that regard. The Navalnyites can be compared with American Tea Party: They want “private property” to be completely sacred and untouchable, and they want a new legal system to carve this into stone.

    • marknesop says:

      In fact, the U.S. government – by guaranteeing those agencies’ debt – did nationalize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They were publicly-traded companies. I’m not sure if the government still “owns” them, but they were at least temporarily nationalized. I remember using it to ask the rhetorical question why state control of industry is so bad, if the U.S. government had to abandon the holy grail of private enterprise and take over (nationalize) two of its largest mortgage brokers because to do otherwise would be to let them collapse.

    • kievite says:

      The Navalnyites can be compared with American Tea Party
      That’s an interesting idea. I see two important common features:
      — the high, almost pathological, level of anger and hostility expressed toward the government despite the fact that some (many ?) are on Social Security/Medicare.
      — hidden support of some powerful group of oligarchs including some in the current Russia government.

      As for

      They want “private property” to be completely sacred and untouchable, and they want a new legal system to carve this into stone.

      Here I think situation is more nuanced:

      At least part of them (let’s call them “young wolves”) want to depose the current government with the explicit idea of getting larger part of the public pie and are extremely envious about wealth of the current oligarchs for explicit reasons that they themselves were too late to once in the century plunder that enriched the old generation of oligarchs. And they expect that with their talents they will be able to catch fish in muddled waters. They are for re-nationalization and subsequent privatization of properties in their favor.

      The other part is more close to the “old Yeltsin’s guard” represented by Nemtsov/Kasyanov/Ryzhkov/Yavlinski. In other words, they already have had a piece but were sidelined and feel insecure. They want to regain security and if possible return to power for specific purpose to resume Yeltsin’s plunder of Russia’s resources expecting like any compradors to get a part of the loot for themselves.

      I think “globalists”. especially in financial oligarchy and especially former “Komsomol bankers” belong to this category and might even be a source of financing. Another potential candidates may be friends of Chernomyrdin in Gasprom. In this case we have a story of fighting of different fractions of oligarchy masked and amplified by “people’s protests”, which one faction tries to appropriate to depose the head of the other equally powerful faction.

      There are some strange developments in Navalni biography which suggest that Navalni might have some high level support in government. See http://www.newsru.com/russia/02jul2011/navalnij.html

      Moreover, if you look at Gasprom and Gasprom affiliated media properties (http://www.gazprom-media.com/ ) you would be surprised how many “opposition outlets” it contain. I really was shocked when I saw the list.

      For example, it includes Echo of Moscow, which might be more properly called Echo of Israel, or something like that because it definitely behaves like an agent of foreign influence. And that’s President Medvedev so to speak home turf. Which raise certain questions about to what extent the latest Medvedev initiatives were coordinated with Putin or he decided to make his own statement. And to what extent Medvedev’s close cycle is a hidden opposition to Putin. If this is true then actions of Presidential Council for Human Rights have completely different meaning.

      And please note that general political atmosphere in Russia definitely point to shift to the left, while both Navalni and Nemtsov/Kasyanov/Ryzhkov/Yavlinski are to right of current ruling party. So can it be a sophisticated attempt to lead this protest and move it in the direction of deposing Putin and then appropriate the spoils of the victory ?

      Of course this is pure conspirology and some recent appointments (Sergey Ivanov appointment as the head of the presidential administration) contradict it.

      But if you are interested see



      • sinotibetan says:

        Dear kievite,

        Interesting comments especially this:-
        “For example, it includes Echo of Moscow, which might be more properly called Echo of Israel, or something like that because it definitely behaves like an agent of foreign influence. And that’s President Medvedev so to speak home turf. Which raise certain questions about to what extent the latest Medvedev initiatives were coordinated with Putin or he decided to make his own statement. And to what extent Medvedev’s close cycle is a hidden opposition to Putin. If this is true then actions of Presidential Council for Human Rights have completely different meaning. ”
        Hmmmm…. is this plausible?
        I was thinking of other points/speculation that might concur with a Medvedev(shadowy, behind the scenes) initiated ‘protest':-
        1.)The ‘weak’ , ‘bumbling’ Medvedev is a facade – actually he is a ruthless politician ‘playing weak’ to :
        a.)Get Putin choose him as presidential candidate in 2008
        b.)Currently ‘overlooked’ by Putin as the real person behind the protest?
        2.)Medvedev, some has thought, resents the fact that he is to be ‘demoted’ to Premier and Putin is trying to reclaim the Presidency.
        3.)That Medvedev, being a ‘faction of the civiliki’ is fighting an internal war with the siloviki and a Putin presidency means ‘victory’ to the siloviks?
        4.)Washington had, even way before the Duma elections, been in favour of the continuance of the Medvedev presidency. Hence, Medvedev is the favoured ‘presidential candidate’.

        I know…..pure speculation and a rather vivid imagination perhaps. But like any Chinese man , I like conspiracies. ;)
        One thing against this hypothesis is that Medvedev is seen as so allied with Putin that Putin’s downfall would mean Medvedev’s as well.
        What do you think?


        • marknesop says:

          I could be wrong, but Medvedev seems to me to be devoid of pretense and artifice; not really like a successful politician at all. When anything goes well he seems almost childishly delighted, and when things go badly and he promises a full investigation followed by a complete overhaul of the policy, he seems sincere and apologetic. I believe he would have been driven out of office by stronger interests in the first two years of his presidency if not for Putin behind him. I wouldn’t say he was bumbling, exactly, because he’s not stupid, but he seems to me too emotional and not sufficiently pragmatic to hold the office he still holds. He’s too easy to roll; a few people protest and shout, and Medvedev is devastated and promises all kinds of reforms without much thought to what they’ll cost or whether they are really needed, broadly applied to Russian society. I guess if I had to describe him in a word, it’d be “reactionary”. I can’t think of too many successful politicians who are like that.

          But he’d be a perfect target for a colour revolution; without somebody seasoned and experienced behind him, he’d crumble in a few days. He’d try to cut a deal, offer to form a coalition government, and that’d be it for him. That’s exactly what happened to Yanukovych and Shevardnadze, and they were both considerably harder men than Medvedev.

        • Alex(zed244) says:

          Eugene Ivanov has an interesting “theory” about Medvedev which is close to your item #3.

        • kievite says:

          4.)Washington had, even way before the Duma elections, been in favor of the continuance of the Medvedev presidency. Hence, Medvedev is the favored ‘presidential candidate’.

          I think more correctly Washington stance can be depicted as “Anybody but Putin”. And this orange sh*t storm (which actually parasite on actual difficulties Russia experienced in 2008-2011) is a pretty convinced demonstration of this attitude.

          Again the real reason are security interests of the USA as they are understood by the current (and previous) administration and Washington elite. The game is for weakening of Russia by any means not in any case attempt to secure a reliable equal partner. As Putin aptly noted “Washington wants vassals, not friends”.

          I don’t think that this imperial stance serves well the long term US geo-political interests. That is essentially the same neo-con posture that led the USA to Iraq invasion…

          And this USA meddling and the attempt to stage a color revolution substantially complicates or even reverses the internal Russia political processes which actually, in a long term, might be not in favor of Putin continuing presidency after his return to power because for many Russian that smells CPSU and Brezhnev, not mater how high are personal qualities of Putin as a politician (and they are pretty high, he is definitely political of a different, much higher caliber then Medvedev), but were distorted by meddling (it generated an immune response of the society to foreign invasion).

          • marknesop says:

            If Putin is smart – as I’m sure he is – he will include (without ranting) such suggestions in his campaign, or at least contrast his own strength with perceived weaknesses or preference for accommodation in his opponents. Western media sources are doing early damage control on this approach by brushing off as “ridiculous” Putin’s earlier suggestion that the excitement over the election results was largely generated by western interests and was intended as a provocation. I imagine nobody is fooled, and that the activities and sponsorship of NGO’s in the presidential elections will be very carefully watched.

            • kievite says:

              Western media sources are doing early damage control on this approach by brushing off as “ridiculous” Putin’s earlier suggestion that the excitement over the election results was largely generated by western interests and was intended as a provocation. I imagine nobody is fooled, and that the activities and sponsorship of NGO’s in the presidential elections will be very carefully watched.

              Not only damage control. Branding everything Putin said as overstated and ridiculous is a much broader compaign of conditioning of the public. See http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1112/S00166/dan-lieberman-crushing-vladimir-putin.htm

              Description of the castigated grow, graduating from being against American policies to being anti-American, then a serious threat to America and finally a danger to everyone. Nothing good can be said about them; anyone muttering kindly remarks is considered ignorant and slightly warped. After the aversion to the anti-Americans who are a danger to everyone engulfs a large percentage of the population, the media joins the bandwagon, aware it best not contradict the one-sided appraisals.
              This conditioning enables U.S. foreign policy planners to gain public support for their rejection of foreign critics and for policies that disturb their critics. Initiation of wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Granada, Panama and other countries could not occur before a mention of the name of the leaders of the antagonist nations had aroused an angry emotional reaction in America’s psyche. Economic warfare against several nations could not be practiced until Americans were made to feel that the economic warfare was morally correct; a necessary action to defeat and replace the criminal leader of the impudent nation.

              Despite Hillary Clinton having pressed the reset button, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin clearly broadcasts his disfavor with State Department initiatives. Has he also fallen into the Washington character crusher and being leveled due to his alleged antagonism towards America? American media’s scornful attacks on the Russian premier hint at that possibility.

              • marknesop says:

                Dan Lieberman’s article is wonderful; to echo (coincidentally) Lori Lieberman and the series of young ladies who followed her in “Killing Me Softly”, I felt he found my letters and read each one out loud. He is definitely preaching to the choir here. He’s absolutely right that leaders who cross American policy are demonized in the western press, their accomplishments are made to look lucky or simple despite the obvious fact that preferred leaders are unable to match them, and anything that goes wrong in their country is tied to them personally whether it is directly their failure or not. Saakashvili is a classic example, turning his riot police loose on the citizenry to stifle protest, shutting down or ruthlessly controlling independent media and buying his way to re-election. But according to western sources, he’s the personification of democracy wrapped up in a sheet of benevolence and tied with a ribbon of purest freedom. And all because he licks Washington’s boots on command and regularly shows his willingness to do anything asked of him whether it is in the interests of his people or not, while his people are no better off at all than they were under Shevardnadze.

                Thanks for linking that; it was as good as a cold beer.

      • yalensis says:

        Thanks @kievite, this is very interesting. Does Navalny have friends in high places? I am not familiar with NewsRu.com, is this source reliable? They tell a very interesting story. To summarize and try to put in chronological order (I may have made a mistake, because the chronology is confusing), the story you linked (which is from July 2, 2011):

        Once upon a time there was a man named Sergei Karnaukhov, who used to be the Vice-Governor of the Kaliningrad oblast.
        Prior to that, he had a position in Kirov oblast, which is where he first encountered Navalny. Karnaukhov became convinced that Navalny is an American spy, and took it upon himself to destroy this threat to Russia. Karnaukhov decided it was his “идеологической задачей” (“ideological duty”) to nip this threat in the bud and throw Navalny in jail.
        To do this, Karnaukhov prosecuted Navalny for the “Kirov Forest” scheme (some kind of shady business deal that Navanlny was involved in in 2009, when he was advisor to Kirov oblast Governor). Criminal proceedings were initiated against Navalny. (Article 3, statute 165, maximum sentence 5 years.)
        To escape this fate, Navalny fled to Moscow, and thence to America. [One of Navalny’s friends was observed to take a very long visit to the American embassy. Shortly thereafter, Navalny was accepted into the elite Fellowship program at Yale University. The implication is that Navalny’s friends lobbied American embassy to get N accepted at the Yale fellowship and get him out of the country quickly to escape Karnaukhov’s obsessive pursuit.]
        Somehow (the chronology gets murky) Karnaukhov was transferred from Kirov to Kalingrad where, on July 1, 2011 he was forced to submit his resignation. The investigative reporters indicate that Karnaukhov was forced to resign precisely because of his feud with Navalny.

        • sinotibetan says:

          Dear yalensis,

          Thanks for the summary(in English!)….
          I don’t know much about Navalny(from my own ‘research’ that is….much has been posted about him here) but judging by his prominence in the protests , I’d probably have to do my ‘searches’ on him.
          What about Medvedev(one of the ‘friends in high places’) and Navalny in cahoots….is that even possible? Somehow kievite has aroused my suspicion of Medvedev…..though it still sounds less plausible…


          • yalensis says:

            Greetings, Sino-T! The Karnaukhov/Navalny saga was new to me as well, which is why I tried to make some sense of it by putting in chronological order. I get frustrated sometimes reading journalist accounts when they bounce all over the timeline. They start with something happening in the here and now, and then go into flashback mode. I personally prefer the chronological approach — please just tell me the story in a linear fashion!
            Anyhow, I sense there is a story here. If Dostoevsky were alive, he could have written this saga as a cross between “Crime and Punishment’ (with Navalny as Raskolnikov and Karnaukhov as Inspector Porfiry Petrovich); and “The Possessed” with Navalny in the role of the revolutionary Stavrogin!

        • marknesop says:

          Sounds sketchy to me, although I suppose anything is possible. But the administration is bound to be looking hard for anything that will portray Navalny as on the take rather than an idealistic young hero burning up his life in a few short years for the altruistic betterment of his fellow citizens. This just seems too convenient, and there are enough holes in it that even if it turned out to be accurate, Navalny could still claim it was all a frame-up, probably successfully.

          • yalensis says:

            But I think what this story is meant to show is NOT that Navalny is a crook necessarily, but that: (1) Karaukhov believed Navalny to be an American spy, and (2) felt that the best way to nail him was by catching him on financial issues (kind of like Elliot Ness nailing Al Capone on tax evasion because he couldn’t prove the murder charge), and (3) somebody in a high position put a stop to Karaukhov’s vendetta against Navalny. So, assuming cynically that this is not about truth, justice, guilt or innocence; then the interesting question is: Who is protecting Navalny and why?

        • kievite says:

          I am not familiar with NewsRu.com, is this source reliable? They tell a very interesting story.

          Can’t tell anything about NewsRu.com. I simply don’t know.

          But this story is replicated in several other publications such as Russian Reporter http://rusrep.ru/article/2011/06/27/fsb
          This was the original interview sited by NewsRu.com

          There is also a reply of Navalni in which he confirms the story (in his own way): http://mnenia.ru/rubric/politics/vinovat-li-navalnyy-pered-rossiey/

          Another confirmation of the validity of the story is from the other key figure Maria Gaidar (the daughter of Yegor Gaidar): http://m-gaidar.livejournal.com/187004.html

          She is the author of a pretty telling phase “Вы с кровавой гэбней сломаете зубы о Навального” from the interview (“You with your bloody KGBsts will break your teeth on Navalny ‘”).

          • yalensis says:

            In your livejournal link Maria Gaidar in interview with “Rossiskaya Gazeta”, denies making such a dramatic statement to Karnaukhov. Here is her version of what she said:

            Поскольку это моя цитата, то хочу сказать, что Сергей приводит ее не точно. А звучала она примерно таким образом ” Сергей, отстань от Навального, у него большое будущее, ты не сможешь ему помешать, займись лучше делом ”

            “Sergei (Karnaukhov) has misquoted me. What I actually said was something like “Sergei, stay away from Navalny, he has a big future ahead of him, you will not be able to stop him, you’d be better off sticking to [your own] business.”

            • kievite says:

              In your livejournal link Maria Gaidar in interview with “Rossiskaya Gazeta”, denies making such a dramatic statement to Karnaukhov.

              IMHO her carefully worded denial in reality means confirmation :-). She is fighting for exact and less damaging for her (taking into account her links to the West and official position at the time) wording, not a different meaning. Meaning in both cases was the attempt to exert pressure to stop prosecution of Navalni.

              • marknesop says:

                In this instance I agree, although I am no language expert. But when somebody says, “Oh, I didn’t say that, what I said was something more like xxxx…” it usually means they don’t really remember what they said exactly. Although journalists and politicians are certainly not immune from misquoting or – more often – selectively quoting others, they’re usually listening very carefully for that zinger soundbite. They usually don’t completely fabricate a quote, especially when there’s as much distance between the versions as there is here. Ms. Gaidar’s new claim sounds extremely tame and benign compared with the original.

  13. kievite says:

    In America the oligarchy is way more powerful than the government, and the government merely does the bidding of the oligarchy

    I think that the situation is somewhat different. There is no real difference between government and oligarchy because government is an intrinsic part of national oligarchy. There never was and never will be “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. Only “government of the oligarchy, by the oligarchy, for the oligarchy” ;-).

    According to “iron law of oligarchy” all forms of organization, regardless of how democratic they may be at the start, will eventually and inevitably develop into oligarchies. So government is in itself and by itself an oligarchy, an interconnected part of the complex net of national oligarchies. As a special fraction of oligarchy it sometimes has broader vision that other parts of national oligarchy and can pursue the course that is foreign to the interests of other parts (like it was in 1937 in the USA during New Deal, when the government adopted the course that hurt financial oligarchy). That this is just a part of self-preservation mechanism and it does not change the situation as a whole. That also means that outside short period of catastrophic events like wars or revolutions the democracy as an idea exist only within thin layer of top 1% of society and rulers are pre-selected by this layer and often belong to this layer by birth (Bushes, Kennedies). So much about “representative democracy” carrot.
    From Wikipedia

    Any large organization, Michels pointed out, has to create a bureaucracy in order to maintain its efficiency as it becomes larger—many decisions have to be made daily that cannot be made by large numbers of disorganized people. For the organization to function effectively, centralization has to occur and power will end up in the hands of a few. Those few — the oligarchy — will use all means necessary to preserve and further increase their power

    • marknesop says:

      Michels’ point is exactly what I don’t get about the Moscow prostesters’ angry cries that they want more of a voice in the government, they “want to be heard”. My argument is that you vote – that’s how you get heard. All those people are not going to get a role in government, because decision-making would collapse. Eugene Ivanov suggests they are angry because voting is rigged and “their” candidate doesn’t get a voice in the government, so those consituents are denied representation. But UR always gets at least twice the votes of its closest competitor – as it did this time – and the vote is not rigged to anything like that extent. The liberals who are backing and driving these protests do even worse, often not even breaking the threshold to get even one seat. Therefore, those people are likely to be denied representation – if representation means getting a powerful liberal voice in parliament and attention focused on liberal concerns – for the forseeable future: not by crooked United Russia and Rotten Putin, but by democracy. The majority, by far, of Russians does not want significant liberal representation.

      • kievite says:

        This is an excellent point. In other words this orange sh*t storm is designed to secure return on a defeated part of oligarchy (Yeltsin’s gang) to power. All their cries about democracy are just a smoke screen. Let’s don’t forget that along with selling Russia to the West to cents on the dollar Yeltsin was a dictator who shelled parliament and ensured his reelection with such a dirty means (his popularity was around 2% before the elections) that Putin really looks like a saint.

        But they are ruthless as apc27 already mentioned here (Berezovski is a good example of pro-democratization forces in place):

        Oligarchs may well be corrupt bastards with no morals or common decency, but they are very capable predators of the human jungle. Probably none of them would have been able to amass their vast fortunes without being willing and ABLE to do anything, and I do mean anything, to steal it in the first place and then protect it against their rivals.

        And their handers are even more ruthless as soon as there is a smell of energy resources in the air. And that’s the key problem. Compare for example struggle for “honest elections” with the following episode:


        Russia said on Monday it was downgrading relations with Qatar and withdrawing its ambassador after he was beaten by customs officials at Doha’s airport last month, causing possible difficulty over a major energy deal between the two countries.

        Moscow has “made the decision to downgrade relations with Qatar,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani by telephone, a Ministry statement said.

        “Russian Ambassador (Vladimir) Titorenko will leave Qatar after finishing his course of treatment in the coming days,” added the statement, referring to the medical care he was receiving following the physical assault.

        The Qatari Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment.

        According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Titorenko was beaten on Nov. 29 when he passed through customs upon returning to Qatar from a business trip to Jordan.

        A complaint sent by the Ministry to Qatar on Nov. 30 demanding an apology received no reply, the statement said.

        Qatar said last month it was in negotiations to take a stake in an Arctic liquefied natural gas (LNG) project under development by number-two Russian gas producer Novatek.

        The project, in Russia’s northern Yamal peninsula, envisions developing the South Tambey field located in the Arctic area. Resources from the condensate and gas field are expected to produce 5 million tonnes of LNG per year when production starts in 2016 and reach 15 million tonnes per year in 2018. (Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman)

        Never mentioned on Al-Jazeera (Qatar based). Qatar is much like Puerto Rico so to suspect that this was their own initiative would be a great exaggeration.

        See also http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/qatar-accused-assaulting-russian-ambassador-secrets/story?id=15087889

        Now we might understand what tricks key players as well as the whole infrastructure including Golos, Levada Center and other NGO are capable.

        Again let’s remember of Yushchenko poisoning episode.

  14. kievite says:

    An interesting discussion (In Russian)


    • Alex says:

      I trust Churov;s experts know what they are talking about – AFAIK eg. a simple conversion from one format to another (eg. when extracting video from mobile phone) and in some cases even start-stop of the camera during the recording will create “characteristic” P-frame “removal”/”substitution” spikes in Fourier spectra (which are AFAIK – the standard way to detect tampered video) .

      • yalensis says:

        Methinks Churov doth set a very high technical bar for the iPhone/you-tube hamsters:
        “No editing! No montage! No special effects! No musical soundtrack!”
        “But Gospodin Churov, I am an artiste , you are interfering with my High Concept, and you, Sir, are a philistine!”

        • Alex says:

          ..frankly, it is the artistic inclinations of the other side which bother me more.. eg. Yustas :) reports http://yustas.livejournal.com/692010.html
          (this is not unrelated to Navalnyi – you may want to look at the illustrated commentary http://navalny.livejournal.com/661833.html ). Have fun.

          • yalensis says:

            Ha ha! Navalny apparently receiving $$$ from every possible oligarch in the world, including Lord Voldemort, Bender the Robot, and even Putin himself!
            P.S. Navalny is correct that this is extremely unflattering photo of him, makes him look tubby and double-chin. He should know that Americans expect their candidates to be trim and movie-star handsome. Navalny: time to hit the gym and get that botox injection. But not same botox as Yushchenko used, it was bad batch and ruined his pretty face.

          • yalensis says:

            I see that the “faked photo” scandal was picked up by this New York Times article which presented the event as a total vindication of Navalny. See, evil Putin attempted to smear their hero with a doctored photo, but got hoisted by his own petard when the photo was revealed to be a fake.
            ” Mr. Navalny, who spoke in a telephone interview from Mexico, where he is on vacation but updating his blog…
            What? He had to fly all the way to Mexico to meet his CIA handler? Oh well, I suppose it is easier for him there than in Washington DC, where he would have been trailed by about 20 supposed attaches from Russian embassy…. In Mexico, light-skinned Russian spies would stand out like a sore thumb…

            • Alex says:

              … now tell me that the simple-minded and it appears, comparatively modest Communists were bad.. If with them the country looked Orwelian – sometimes and not too often, then with the current gang – all and each of them – it looks like a goose-bumps reality show from Pelevin’s SNUFF (plus S. Minaev and Dubovitsky/Surkov) all the time.

            • Not only the New York Times but also the London Times which incredibly devotes a whole editorial to the subject. Unfortunately the editorial in question is behind a pay wall.

              • ….and not just The Times. the Guardian is running the story as well


                Is it by the way true as the Guardian article says that there is some uncertainty about where the photograph is supposed to have first appeared? The article suggests that it appeared in Yekaterinburg of all places. It seems that the photo may also have attracted little or no national attention until Navalny and his fan club started to comment on it. If this is so then has anybody suggested that the photo might have been faked by Navalny himself so that he could gain publicity and sympathy by “refuting” it?

                • marknesop says:

                  The more the government ignores Navalny, the more his supporters try to make it appear the Kremlin regards him as a serious threat.

                  Navalny cannot stand in the upcoming presidential election. If he could, he would not win. This is just an attempt to play to the theme that Putin is weakened and desperate, in the hope that his rivals who can stand in the election will win. Remember, it’s less about getting a western-friendly candidate elected (hopeless at present) than it is about destabilizing Russia and perhaps putting oafs in power who will screw up the economy. I don’t know about you, but I’d say capping allegedly fraudulent elections with western-inspired look-at-me shenanigans was not an improvement.

                • marknesop says:

                  Look for more of these stories as “an increasingly desperate Kremlin tries vainly to stop the building wave of adoration for the People’s Champion”. Street protests haven’t a hope of growing larger unless the people are kept stirred up. The narrative must reflect the Kremlin getting more desperate as Navalny gets stronger and stronger. Also, this latest gambit remains true to the OTPOR playbook of making the enemy (the government and Putin) objects of amusement and derision, as witnessed by the spread of silly photoshopped shots of Navalny with an alien, with Hitler, bla, bla, bla.

                  At all costs, Navalny must remain relevant, even if it must be manufactured.

                • cartman says:

                  Did you know about Optor’s “Democracy Island” in the Maldives? Whoever is paying them must be paying A LOT. One of the ironic things here is that the Maldives is essentially and Islamist dictatorship, where practicing other religions is illegal.

                • yalensis says:

                  I see 2 logical possibilities:
                  (1) Navalnyites faked the photo themselves to generate fake scandal and gain some fanfare for their guy — I consider this possible but unlikely;
                  (2) which I consider much more probable: Some idiot in local Ekaterinburg gazette did in fact edit the photo in photoshop, either lazy and/or stupid, thinking nobody would notice or care because small local newspaper. Navalnyites did notice of course and made much hay, contacted all their friends in foreign media. Foreign media now trumpeting this as scandal of the century and hoping this one silly incident will bring down the Putin government.

            • marknesop says:

              They seem to have paid attention in Karl Rove 101; this was a favourite tactic of his. He would produce crude leaflets saying outrageous things about his own candidate, blame them on the opposition, and relax with folded arms while the sympathy votes poured in. They appear to have taken it a step further, coming up with swift refutation themselves and labeling it as Kremlin monkeyshines, just in case the electorate is too dim to see where the blame ought to be placed. I’d be willing to bet the entire scam came from the Navalny “campaign”. Just what Russia needs – not only a western bootlicker, but a western bootlicker who admires western electioneering tactics. The Kremlin is very, very unlikely to have come up with smear campaigns against Navalny; and that’s not the first time. Remember the alleged effort to discredit Navalny by a United-Russia-hired PR firm, as breathlessly broadcast in Novaya Gazeta? They claimed to have evidence, but to the very best of my knowledge none was ever produced.

              I’d be pretty disgusted with myself if I had to solicit the aid of U.S. Republicans and their repulsive tactics in order to get elected in my own country. But that’s just me, I guess. It doesn’t appear to trouble Navalny.

              • Dear Mark,

                There’s a few things to say here:

                1. We don’t know for sure that Navalny faked the photo. I admit I was being a little mischievous when I suggested that he might have done. As others have said even in its original form it is hardly flattering. One thing we can be sure of it is that it was not faked by the Kremlin. Firstly they would hardly do so in such a crude way and secondly if they did there would be little obvious point in burying the photo in provincial Yekaterinburg where it might have disappeared without trace if Navalny had not “commented” on it. Having saiid this it is surely also possible that the photo might have been faked by some idiot in Yekaterinburg who supports the government or who opposes Navalny. Incidentally what all the other versions of the photo publicised by Navalny’s supporters show is how easy such a photo is to fake. It seems that it can be done with even basic equipment that is accessible to possibly millions of people.

                2. Having said this you are absolutely right that Navalny seems to be becoming increasingly obsessed with himself and like all such people has a craving for the oxygen of publicity. I would add that this craving in Navalny’s case is probably as much psychological as it is political. The man is clearly at the moment on something of a high. It is entirely consistent with such a craving that he might have faked a photo both for the reasons and because the one thing it seems he can’t bear is not to being in the news and at the centre of attention.

                3. In an earlier comment on this blog I speculated that we would see increasingly extreme and exhibitionist behaviour and just possibly this photo is an early example. I also said that Navalny’s relationship with his followers was beginning to acquire something of the trappings of a cult and that this increases the potential for violence, which is definitely there.

                • marknesop says:

                  Oh, I certainly don’t think Navalny did it himself. But he would have to have known about it, at least peripherally, since the response seems carefully rehearsed as well. If you needed any further sign that Navalny is the new “It Boy” and that Nemtsov is extinct, this is it. It serves so many purposes – it makes the Kremlin look bungling and clownish, it gets Navalny’s name front and centre in the press again, it energizes his supporters and encourages them to use the medium where Navalny is strongest – the internet – to spread the word and stay in touch while recruiting new members and, after Navalny’s incendiary remarks about “taking the Kremlin”, it allows him to back off a little and show his capricious side as he just laughs tolerantly at the Kremlin’s desperate, amateurish attempts to curb his growing influence. Even his remark that the Kremlin is bad at the internet (or United Russia, or Putin, I forget who specifically he accused) seems designed to show that United Russia is part of yesterday (can’t grasp that newfangled internet) while Navalny is the very embodiment of today.

                  But this is not Gene Sharp. This is Karl Rove and Australia’s John Howard (another figure who extensively studied the impact of negative advertising and electorate manipulation to gain psychological advantage). I don’t mean them literally, either, of course; I mean this is that style of politics. If the people can’t make up their minds, tilt the playing field and help steer them to a decision. And it’s beautiful, because there’s absolutely no defense against it. If the government responds angrily, it’s because they’re guilty and ashamed. If they respond coldly and contemptuously, it’s because they’re guilty and disappointed it didn’t work. If they don’t respond at all, it’s because they’re guilty. The Swift-boating of Vladimir Putin.

                  Consider the photo. Even from the tiny computer reproduction, you can tell it’s a fake. You can see too much of Berezovsky’s upper body; he’d have to have legs like a praying mantis for that aspect to work. They left a recognizable background to make it easy for Navalny and his crowd to supply the original, and thus refute it beyond all doubt as a fake; the smart thing to do would have been to snip out Navalny and drop him in somewhere else. And using such a hostile figure as Berezovsky would be too stupid for words; if Navalny didn’t have the original, Berezovsky probably would, and he would be tripping over his own feet at an opportunity to make Putin look bad. It may even be a silent attempt to bend Berezovsky to the Navalny banner, if he isn’t in the choir already.

                  Anatoly, Kevin Rothrock at A Good Treaty and Aramis at Barkers and Rubes can all do PhotoShop better than this, and they do it so you can easily tell it’s a retouched photo; that’s part of the joke. People who are serious about faking a photo are WAY better than this at it, and even if the Kremlin were totally out of touch with using the internet to discredit someone, they’d hire somebody good. If nothing else, they are realistic about their limitations – the Kremlin Navalny describes couldn’t have survived a year.

                  No, this is a deliberately clumsy fake; too subtle, and the government might have seized the opportunity and actually turned the narrative so that it was believable that the photo was real. It had to be clumsy enough that the dimmest beet farmer could see it was a fake. And the rapidity of the Navalny/western response suggests it was rehearsed. According to an interview with Medvedev, he didn’t get to speak to Putin until about 24 hours after sending the army into Georgia. And Navalny is on vacation in Mexico – yet the PR wave, including Navalny’s amused, chuckling rejoinder, was almost instantaneous.

                • cartman says:

                  The media has already picked up and declared that the Kremlin faked it. See that it is the lead at msnbc:


                • marknesop says:

                  Of course. They take their marching orders from advocacy groups and democratization think tanks, and the electorate is subjected to a soothing wash of everything-is-gonna-be-all-right bibble-babble feelgood pablum – until it’s time for the Two Minutes Hate.

                  This will likely have little impact in Russia, and the only outlets likely to pick it up in a sympathetic vein will be Novaya Gazeta, the Moscow Times and the St Petersburg Times. But it remains a conundrum how the Kremlin – so “bad at the internet” according to Navalny – regularly gets the blame for sophisticated hacks of government computers as well as raw power denial of service blitzkriegs…but they can’t pull off a PhotoShop retouch that even the dumbest clod can’t see is a fake. They’re so good they’re wicked – except when they’re so inept that you wonder if they know how to handle tabbed browsing.

  15. A few comments about some of the things that have been said:

    1. Yalensis, I think your comparison of Navalny with a character out of Dostoevsky is absolutely brilliant. I would make only one suggestion, which is that though Stavrogin is a good fit Verkhovensky may be even better (NB: Have you ever seen any films of The Possessed or The Demons as it is now more often translated? There are brilliant Russian films of the Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment and of the Idiot but I have never come across one of The Possessed).

    2. Mark, your comment about the protesters demanding the right to be “heard” reminds me of a conversation I had with the same Russian businessman who I mentioned in some of my previous comments and who turned out to be a supporter of the KPRF. He told me that he had had a conversation with someone who had come away frustrated from a meeting with Putin on (of all things) the subject of kindergartens. This person complained bitterly that Putin had not listened to what he was saying. I said that one should not confuse a failure to agree with a refusal to listen. It is in fact almost invariably the case that when people complain that others are not listening to them what they actually mean is that the others are not agreeing with them. Anyone who has occupied a position that involves making decision that affect others will know what I mean.

    3. Kievite and Yalensis, one reason why I do not think a colour revolution will happen in Russia is because of what people like you are doing to expose the attempts to foment one. The detail you have been able to provide is instructive and fascinating.

    PS: I notice that Kudrin is now saying that it will take “at least two years” before the radical opposition can come up with a credible Presidential candidate and that Putin is certain to win the Presidential election in March “even” if it is free and fair.

    • yalensis says:

      Thanks for comments, Alexander. No, I have never seen a film version of “Demons”, I wonder if anyone has ever filmed this novel? It would be difficult film to make in Russia, there is that troublesome “pedophile” subplot. When I was teenager I went through a “Dostoevsky” phase, when I gobbled up all his works, but then I felt like they were driving me mad, like one of his characters! (Dostoevsky was paranoid schizoprenic himself, not to mention pedophile, gambler, and many other bad things.) To purge myself of this mental poison, I had to read many wholesome books about characters who were not quite as tortured. Best antidote was the hilarious P.G. Wodehouse stories about Bertie and Jeeves! So I gobbled up all of Wodehouse, and I was cured of the “Dostoevsky disease”. To complete my cure, I read all of Jane Austen, my favorite of which is “Mansfield Park”. There is a logic and brightness to her works which reminds me of Pushkin. These writers prove that it is possible to be very wise and deep without being mentally ill!
      Speaking of great literature, when reading the saga about Navalny and his “persecutor” Karaukhov, I was also reminded of the Victor Hugo character, Inspector Javert, who incessantly pursues the hero, Jean Valjean, over the course of 20 years. However, I did not want to make that comparison, because it would be too flattering to Navalny. Jean Valjean is a very complicated character who starts as a rough-edged criminal and yet, through a series of shocks, eventually achieves an almost Christ-like perfection of his personality. That certainly does not sound like Navalny to me!
      Speaking of Navalny, in his interview with Echo Moskvy, even he admitted that Putin would win the election handily without cheating. Everybody knows this, this is why Navalny is a long-term, not a short-term American project. Americans think far ahead, I am guessing they are grooming him for 2018.

      • marknesop says:

        Western strategists might well be patient planners and committed to a long game – but that frame doesn’t fit Navalny at all. He’s a hothead, and I can’t imagine him patiently building his statesmanlike qualities through another 6 years. If he did, he might actually make a pretty good challenger and it might not be a disaster if he won; he could learn a lot in 6 years, and he’s certainly not stupid. But I don’t see him as accepting the role of the political neophyte through a long period of education. He wants to join the company as president, not as the photocopier boy. And the west would not be grooming him as a future great leader for Russia, but a bludgeon with which to stun Putin.

    • marknesop says:

      Agreed, Alex; and moreover, a discussion with Putin on kindergartens would be opinion only. Putin doesn’t have any children in kindergarten, and it’s been quite a few years since he was there himself – I daresay he remembers little of it. The Prime Minister or President is not an expert on every aspect of society, and when a proposal is under consideration to regulate some policy having to do with education, somebody (usually the minister responsible) briefs him. It’s quite true that he has the final say (although it would have to be a very far-reaching kindergarten modification indeed that had to be personally reviewed by the Prime Minister), but before he makes a decision, he should be presented with a range of options and someone who is an expert should be available to answer his questions. Prime Ministers don’t google “kindergarten in Russia” and do their own research. The government is a lot like the military in that respect; nobody asks the Admiral what the duties and responsibilities of the helmsman are, the Admiral doesn’t steer the ship.

      A questioner who wanted to talk with Putin about trawling for groundfish might be disappointed also in his lack of evident interest, but so far as I know, Putin knows nothing about the subject. I’m sure he would be polite, but would detach himself from the conversation as soon as politeness permitted. Does that mean he’s arrogant and disinterested in what the people have to say? I’d say, not necessarily. He has ministers who bear direct responsibility for fisheries and oceans who should be expert at the subject. The fisheries minister doesn’t mess with foreign policy, and Putin doesn’t mess with groundfish regulations.

      Of course, as Prime Minister, Putin is not responsible for foreign policy, either. But that will change soon.

  16. kievite says:

    Merry Orthodox Christmas for everybody !!!

    Special thanks to Mark. Due to his blog and commenters he assembled (or who auto-assembled around him ;-) I learned about Russian political scene during the last two months much more then during previous 10 months :-).

    As sinotybetian (with whose views I feel great affinity, despite differences or our backgrounds) aptly said:

    It dawned to me , after following this blog for some time that there are many excellent commentators here with really exhaustive and extensive knowledge regarding the situation in Russia. I am not at all a ‘politics junkie’ like Mark but just someone with some interest and some knowledge (perhaps maybe just slightly more than the ‘average man on the street’) regarding all these things. My interest in Russia is just because I am kinda a ‘Russophile’ as I have a profession which has little connection with social science, politics or economics.

    What’s funny, it is true for me probably more then for sinotybetian :-). I think that this idea about need to promote this blog

    To cut it short, I wonder if this suggestion is not too ridiculous :
    … an English blog to be ‘promoted’ for the less erudite like myself and the majority. Mark’s blog can be that English blog.

    is an excellent one. The real question is how. I would greatly appreciate if our esteemed commentariat think about ways to do so and comment on this post.

    There are two technical problems with the blog that IMHO should be addressed, if possible. Probably among us there is at least one WordPress guru who can help or at least who knows where to look for help.

    — One “running out of nesting” for which I don’t really have any clever suggestions other the establishing the minimum size of the line after which there is no further nesting. I suspect that it should be possible in WordPress.

    — The second is for English grammar challenged people like me: there should be, say 5-10 min window to edit comments after you hit the post button, the functionality I see pretty often in other blogs. That would be enough to correct the errors but will prevent “Monday morning quarterbacking” when user completely changes his comment at later date because he changed his mind and that disrupts the whole thread. May be it’s just me but I see a lot or grammar and other errors after most of my posts and that’s very humiliating. Not sure if WordPress has such a capability. Can the registered user of WordPress be allowed to edit his own comments? I have found one relevant reference from Google on the topic:


    They suggest plug-in http://code.jalenack.com/archives/edit-comments/

    • marknesop says:

      WordPress is probably the easiest blog format to use; I am far from clever about computers and programming, and if I can do it, you can do it. If you are volunteering to start this new blog, there are a couple of ways to do it. You could do it yourself, or I could start it up for you and we could share it until you felt comfortable, as kovane and I have done (or did; sadly, Putin’s goons must have got him and he must be in the Lubyanka now, since I have not heard anything from him for ages).

      Anyway, you just go to the host site (www.Wordpress.com). At the bottom of the page you will find a picture of a stopwatch with the legend “Learn WordPress.com; From zero to hero with our 10-step walk through guide”. There’s an instructional video and everything, and the guide will take you through it step by step. Although I regularly get invitations to “Upgrade to pro” or “make this domain marknesop.com for only $17.00 a year”, the version I am using is still the free one. I find it more than adequate, although you have to be careful about uploading too many photos as you have limited storage. A photo that is used every time like my signature Uncle Volodya shot only counts as one, no matter how many times you duplicate it.

      Anyway, you sign up (register), and you get essentially a blank workspace. You choose a theme from a wide variety (some people like to change theirs regularly, but I’ve left mine the same since I started, the Kremlin view). The theme I use is called “Twenty Ten”, but the picture is a custom job I got from google images, by searching for “Kremlin panorama”. Your theme is basically just the header of your blog, and the picture part ends up being a narrow rectangle; if you choose a regular photo and drop it in, the theme will stretch it to fit, and it’ll come out all skewed. That’s why I used a panorama shot, which fit just about perfectly. Then you name your blog, and start to build your pages (usually the homepage, where all your new posts go, and “about” page, “comment guidelines” if you want, and whatever else you feel like doing. Don’t forget to save your changes every time.

      Nested comments are easily controllable in WordPress. You have a section called the Dashboard, which summarizes all your functions; “Site Stats” tells you how many hits you got, how many followers, what links in your post people clicked on most, that kind of thing. “Links” is where you build your blogroll, and it’s self-explanatory, very easy to follow. “Settings” is the one you want for your question about nesting; select “Settings” and then “Discussion”. There you have the option, “Enable threaded (nested) comments (small box for the number) levels deep”. I have mine set on 8, because I find any more than that and the comment is so skinny it’s hard to read, but you can just type in any number you want. That section is also where you specify that commenters have to fill in a name and email, things like that. There is lots of choice. You can also individually filter out IP addresses so certain people’s comments go straight to the spam filter, but I’ve never needed to do that so far. Akisment is an autofilter program for real spam, and it works very well, it’s right better than 90% of the time. Comments it catches stay in the filter until you delete them, so if they’re not spam, you can always recover them.

      To your second question, you can edit any comment; your own, or anyone else’s. Once in a while I fix people’s spelling mistakes, but I don’t otherwise edit anyone else’s comments. Your opportunity to edit is unlimited; at the bottom of every comment listed on your “Comment” page, there’s a small menu that appears when you roll over it: “Unnaprove”, “Reply”, “Quick Edit”, “Edit”, “History”, “Spam” and “Trash”. Obviously, if you click on either “Edit” or “Quick Edit”, you can change anything in the comment, even weeks later. The menu is always there.

      If you have any questions, I’d be very happy to help.

      • kievite says:


        It’s kind of sad of not being able to express my thoughts clearly. I apologize for that.

        In no way I want to start a new blog. I do not have enough time to participate in this one, to say nothing about the task of running my own. And political science is far from my area of specialization. Like sinotybetian I am just an amateur in this area. The fact that Russian is my native language helps as well as knowledge of the history of Orange Revolution (BTW it looks like Timoshenko in jail has clear withdrawal symptoms), but that’s it.

        My idea was to reiterate the excellent idea of sinotybetian: to try somehow promote your blog as a valuable resource about Russian politics due to your talent as a political commentator and the commentariat that you managed to attract. That’s not an easy task in Elnglish blogosphere which is deeply infected by various flavours of “russophobia” (for obvious reasons that were already dscusssed in Crushing Vladimir Putin by Dan Lieberman). But probably something can be done.

        And all my suggestions are about the current format of your blog, not some hypothetical new one:

        What’s funny, it is true for me probably more then for sinotybetian . I think that this idea about need to promote this blog

        To cut it short, I wonder if this suggestion is not too ridiculous :
        … an English blog to be ‘promoted’ for the less erudite like myself and the majority. Mark’s blog can be that English blog.

        is an excellent one. The real question is how.

        The phase “The real question is how” that probably put you off track just means “The real question is how to promote marknesop.wordpress.com”.

        BTW one more suggestion: it might make sense to get a DNS name for it instead of using “marknesop.wordpress.com”.

        • yalensis says:

          @kievite: I make typing/spelling mistakes too, especially when I am in a hurry, but here is one tip that helps keep me honest: Initially type your comment in a word-processing app, run it through spell-checker, give it a quick proofread, and then copy and paste into comment window.
          Besides WordPress blogs I have occasionally commented on Disqus blogs (which DO allow you to edit your own comment after posting) and I used to have an account on INOSMI forum, but then something bad happened and my password stopped working, but I have not been able to change it, because it keeps saying “Account already in use…” and I am stuck in a loop (long story). Anyhow, I definitely do NOT like the Disqus blog format. The very way it is set up inevitably leads to cliques (who “Like” each other to gain false popularity), multiple personalities (each “liking” the other, naturally), vicious feuds, flame wars, mass troll attacks, and impersonations. LIke you, I am very fond of Mark’s blog: It is civilized and informative, his posts are awesome and then he liberally allows commenters to go off topic, there is only one troll nowadays and even he provides a valuable fact-checking service!

          • yalensis says:

            P.S. I forgot to mention 2 other things about Disqus that I do not like:
            (1) They do not allow you to post links. There is a trick you can use to get around this, but if the moderator wakes up from his nap and catches you doing it, he will delete your entire post to punish you.
            (2) Commenters are allowed to “Flag” each others comments. This naturally enhances the flame wars and clique approach to commenting. A “flagged” comment is temporarily removed, then usually Moderator deletes it altogether (when he wakes up from his nap). This gives commenters too much power to censor other commenters. Also makes some threads impossible to follow. For example, Commenter B’s “reply” is: “I disagree with what Commenter A said above,” and you look above to what he is disagreeing with, and all you see of Commenter A’s comment is : “”

            • yalensis says:

              egads another technical boner: should say above: all you see of Commenter A’s comment is “comment flagged for review”. (Originally I put that quote in triangular brackets and WordPress treated like an invalid HTML tag.) Okay, I give up!

          • marknesop says:

            I do most of my replies from this pane, the “comments” page of the blog, and it includes a red-underline spell-check as you’re typing, although I still make mistakes that I have to fix with edit. But at work the “comments” pane doesn’t perform like it does here (National Defence firewalls again, I presume) so I have to type in my comments into the thread like everyone else and can’t include links without using html coding (it’s much easier in WordPress) or edit any errors until I get home.

        • marknesop says:

          No, the fault is mine; I misunderstood. Your self-expression in English is excellent, but originally (if I’m not misunderstanding again), SinoTibetan had proposed creation of another blog, or possibly a mirror, in Russian. I thought that’s what you were talking about.

          There are lots of things I could do to increase traffic; comment more on other blogs (which I already do pretty much to the limit of my time anyway), switch to a DNS Lookup or go for my own domain, turn on several available “publicize” features (but then I’d have to have Facebook and Twitter accounts, which do not interest me at all), and so on. I could solicit and allow commercial advertising. But the truth is, I’m satisfied with the traffic I have now. I don’t care if I never get any bigger. I have some fantastic commenters who stretch my knowledge and understanding to their limits and beyond, and a bit of outside attention occasionally from inoSMI. I’m happy.

          If you seriously want to promote this blog beyond its present audience, pass it along. Tell your friends. And I suppose every post could be mirrored in Russian for those who don’t speak English, or not well. But that’d be beyond my capability.

          Or I could offer free beer – that’s always a crowd-pleaser. But then there’s always a line-up for the bathroom.

          • As someone who has recently set up his own blog I have to say that I find keeping up a blog far more difficult and demanding than I expected. Indeed though it has been up and running for only a few months I have repeatedly thought of giving up on it. I am going through such a phase now. I am in awe of people like Mark who are able to keep up blogs and who week in week out find new things they are able to say.

            As for writing my problem is excessive fluency caused by long years of dictating everything to secretaries combined with an eyesight problem that makes it difficult for me to check what I’ve written. I have to cut back continuously on what I write and since I always seem to be thinking three sentences ahead of what I am actually writing I have a habit of dropping words. My eyesight problem means that I often do not notice this when I do checks.

            • Dear Sinotibetan and Kievite,

              I just wanted to add one more point to this thread.

              Please do not feel constrained about your English. It is fine and fully understandable. I have never had the slightest trouble following what you say. On the contrary I find what you both have to say always interesting and helpful.

  17. marknesop says:

    Completely off topic, and taking a break from hammering on America for its high-handed ways and its constant undermining of regimes it doesn’t care for or those it assesses threaten its domination of the globe, here’s a great story about the rescue of a group of Iranian fishermen from Somali pirates, by the crew of the USS KIDD.

    A Navy spokesman denies this is just a PR gig, and that the United States Navy will and does rescue crews in distress at sea regardless of their nationality, and he’s telling the truth. The U.S. Navy takes the law of the sea very seriously, and will not hesitate to put its own personnel in danger to save the lives of others without any pause to consider where they come from.

    Still, as a PR opportunity, this one is hard to beat. In the face of extremely unsettled relations between the United States and Iran and some very bellicose threats from the Iranian government, a unit of the American military rescues Iranian citizens without hesitation when nothing but military muscle would have been likely to succeed, and releases them without any expectation of thanks. And the Commanding Officer is a woman, which is still pretty rare for frigates and destroyers. The only decent thing for the Iranian government to do would be to give the incident wide circulation and to publicly thank the United States for its courage and selfless professionalism.

    Doubtless tomorrow they’ll go back to flaming each other, and I personally think the case against Iran is not only completely fabricated but part of a longstanding plan – but for now, the U.S. Navy wins this one hands down. Well done.

  18. Moscow Exile says:

    The recent action of the US navy in its rescuing some Iranian fishermen from Somali pirates is highly laudable and follows a long maritime tradition. I believe that international law can trace its roots back to the 17th century, when the English (ie before the Act of Union) Royal Navy and the French and Spanish navies began, under tacit agreement, temporarily to suspend their hostilities in the Caribbean in order to combat piracy whenever the need to do so should occur.

    The Russian navy has also had some success against Somali pirates. However, there has been some thinly veiled criticism in the West concerning these Russian anti-piracy actions, in that it has been alleged that the Russsian navy undertakes a take-no-prisoners policy.

    There is a video clip on the Internet that shows a Russian navy vessel destroying a pirate ship off the Horn of Africa and some of the captured pirate crew kneeling on the deck of the Russian ship with their hands behind their heads, It was later claimed that the prisoners shown in the video were then cast adrift in an open boat. Neither the boat nor its occupants have ever been seen again. This has been contrasted with the bringing back to the USA of a captured by the US Navy Somali pirate, who stood trial in a United States court and is now languishing away for a very long time in a US prison.

    • yalensis says:

      There is also a long maritime tradition of casting adrift undesirabes in an open boat. (See Captain Bligh.) It is considered okay so long as you leave them an oar so they get a sporting chance.
      In any case, kudos to brave American sailors for rescuing their Iranian colleagues, it is cool to see people doing the right thing.

    • marknesop says:

      That’s merely the editorial policy of the reporting source; many western sources will never turn down an opportunity to put a thumb in Russia’s eye when it is offered – as soon as their leash is slipped, the barbaric Russians revert to savagery, which lies just beneath an uneasy surface in all of them.

      In fact, the policy contemptuously termed “catch and release” resulted from the input of overcautious western lawyers concerned about the west’s image, and was wildly unpopular among the conservative shoot-em-up set such as is exemplified at Fox News. This is the voice of the bible-thumping, Russia-hating, Obama-is-a-pansy crowd. As you can see, as soon as it became Americans getting killed or captured, there were hoarse shouts for the gloves to come off; no more Mr. Nice Guy. The sinking of a pirate vessel, presumably with its crew aboard, by the Indian warship TABAR was widely cheered throughout western nations.

      But at bottom, that was all window-dressing. What really made the west harden its heart was, you guessed it, oil. What do you think made the U.S. Navy adopt a shoot-to-kill policy; the murder of some missionaries carrying a load of bibles, or the hijacking by pirates of the supercarrier SIRIUS STAR with better than 25% of Saudi Arabia’s daily output aboard?

      To be fair, the United States was at the heart of the formation of CTF-150, the anti-piracy Combined Task Force, in 2001 and continues to supply the bulk of its participation and support. But the toughening of its measures seemed awfully coincident with the capture of the SIRIUS STAR. Ditto western patience with the anti-piracy effort.

      The derogatory reporting of Russian roughness seems a little hypocritical in view of the enthusiastic cheering for western roughness. However, as I said, that’s mostly just a knee-jerk reaction: the Russians did it? It must be bad. Any chance we can blame Putin? I wonder if the same attitude prevails in Nome, Alaska, to which a Russian tanker is proceeding in a never-before-attempted resupply effort to the cut-off city.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        “The derogatory reporting of Russian roughness seems a little hypocritical in view of the enthusiastic cheering for western roughness.”

        I believe that this hypocrisy is what really irritates very many Russians. It is has existed for so long (for at least 200 years in my opinion) and is so commonplace that many Russians have come to expect it in much the same way as they expect the sun to rise every day.

        To make matters worse, however, in “post-Soviet Russia”, whenever this Western hypocrisy is pointed out by Russians or by those who defend Russian actions, the stock response from the West is that “Soviet what-aboutism” has reared its ugly head once again and an admonishing finger is wagged whilst the aphorism “two wrongs don’t make right” is uttered.

        Of course two wrongs don’t make a right; at least, they don’t according to the rules of classical Western logic, but what the Western news media would never say is, for example: “A Russian naval unit has successfully intercepted a Somali pirate vessel. Shots were exchanged. No pirates are reported to have survived the engagement, as was the case following a recent Indian Navy action against Somali pirates”.

        To return to the comments concerning the Moscow Times above, I recall two articles in that newspaper of late concerning “Soviet what-aboutism”. One such article even had as its title the punch-line of an old Soviet “anekdot”: В Америке негров убивают.

        It seems that “what-aboutism” has become a favourite drum to be beaten by Western journalists critical of Russia.

        • Dear Moscow Exile,

          The point about raising the subject of “what aboutism” is that of course it evades discussion. The Russian government has recently produced its own report about human rights. The British media has completely ignored the report whilst Freedom House has attacked it using the argument of “what aboutism” to discredit it. That way it manages to avoid discussing what it says. Incidentally the charge of “what aboutism” was as dishonest when used against the Soviets as it is when used against the Russians today.

          Russia is far from being the only country that gets exposed to this sort of thing. Also I have to say that on any discussion of human rights the western attitude strikes me as being more delusional than cynical. Westerners simply assume that they own the concept of human rights and become resentful when others challenge their ownership of it. The correct demeanour so far as the west is concerned is for westerners to make long and tiresome lectures on human rights and for those on the receiving end of these lectures to listen silently and shamefacedly accepting fault and promising to do better. Answering back is unacceptable and challenging the west’s right to deal out such lectures by pointing to the west’s own misbehaviour is completely beyond the pale.

          I think by the way that one of the reasons for the intensity of western dislike of Putin is precisely that he refuses to play the human rights game by the west’s rules. On the contrary whenever questions of human rights are raised with him he always seems to have a ready counter. To add insult to injury instead of getting angry and looking embarrassed he does it with humour. I can remember for example an occasion when Barroso and Merkel tried to take him task over the handling of demonstrations in Moscow only for him to quip back that demonstrators in Russia were treated with far more tolerance than demonstrators in Germany where at a recent G8 summit they had been dispersed by the riot police. Barroso and Merkel were furious. As I recall they were so angry that at the subsequent news conference they became almost incoherent. On another occasion at a Valdai meeting after pointing to the west’s failings on human rights questions Putin joked that he and Mahatma Gandhi were the only statesmen who cared about human rights. Incredibly the joke was taken seriously and provoked a hysterical reaction with the London Times even writing an editorial to refute it.

  19. Whilst on the subject of things naval I understand that the Russian task force that was going to the Mediterranean has in fact today docked at the Syrian port of Tartus. It seems that because of the relatively small scale of the facilities the aircraft carrier that forms the heart of the task force has had to remain offshore. However some of the other ships have actually docked at Tartus and are replenishing their stores there. The political and diplomatic repercussions of this move are obvious,

    When news of the despatch of the task force was first announced I read some sarcastic comments in the British press questioning whether the aircraft carrier would ever get to the Mediterranean before experiencing a breakdown. I understand that the aircraft carrier did have some problems with its engines but that was in the 1990s and its presence in the eastern Mediterranean shows that these comments were nonsense. Ever since I can remember and extending far back into the Cold War the British media has portrayed the Russian military as brutal, corrupt and shambolic. I am not a military expert but what I have seen of the Russian army in action whether in Afghanistan in the 1980s, during the Second Chechen War or in the Russia Georgia conflict of 2008 simply does not bear out this picture. The comments about the aircraft carrier I have mentioned seem all of a piece with this. Felgenhauer who we discussed previously seems to me to derive much of his reputation by the way he panders to this prejudice,

    • marknesop says:

      Quite right, Alex; I read a very snide story at Siberian Light which suggested the carrier would stagger down there with rivets dropping from her rusty sides, and that if she made it under her own power, it’d be a miracle. In fact, the marine environment is extremely hard on ships and their power plants alike, and it is not uncommon for brand-new ships to break down. I can recall being alongside in Pearl Harbor in 2009 and seeing USS CHAFEE (DDG 90), commissioned only 6 years earlier, leave for a deployment to the Middle East. Bear in mind that she would have been a beehive of activity in the months preceding, having her almost-new plant overhauled and tested and inspected, and ordering and storing spares. Wives and children waved tearful goodbyes as they pulled away to the strains of “Anchors Aweigh” or some such stirring naval anthem; I forget exactly. By suppertime they were back alongside with a serious mechanical failure. Even this report, which purports to reveal troubling details about the American fleet’s material readiness, can’t resist a dig at the “old Soviet Navy” and its supposed deplorable maintenance practices.

      The ADMIRAL KUZNETSOV was commissioned in 1991, and in operational service in 1995 following a lengthy trials period (normal for first of class, as she was intended to be; interestingly, the Russian navy refers to ships as “He”). USS NIMITZ is 16 years older, but I’ve never heard a chorus of snickers every time she deployed for an extended period; DWIGHT D EISENHOWER is 14 years older than KUZNETSOV. USS CARL VINSON, THEODORE ROOSEVELT and ABRAHAM LINCOLN are all older than KUZNETSOV.

      Any aircraft carrier is a force multiplier due to its being a moveable airbase, so that the only targets out of range of its aircraft are those too far inland where the carrier cannot possibly be, rather than where it is right now. Of course, U.S. forces in the region overwhelmingly outnumber Russian (and U.S. troops were reported to be building up on the Jordanian/Syrian border, although the source is questionable) – but now they have an extra reason to be careful. Shooting down a Russian aircraft in other than self-defense circumstances could have far-reaching implications.

      When the Russian Army thrashed Georgia, a lot of people laughed up their sleeves and said, “As well they might – look at the size of them compared to Georgia”. This ignores the considerable investment in providing Georgian forces with the latest in training and equipment (wasted, to some extent, as Georgian soldiers threw away their new M4’s for the Kalashnikovs they knew better), and the same serial laughers made no remarks when the U.S. used over 100,000 troops to (fail to) secure a country the size of California whose armament was much inferior to that of Georgia.

      • Dear Mark,

        Thank you for this.

        I am not a military man but I have to say that the impression I got from the Russia Georgia war of 2008 was of an operation carried out with great efficiency and at whirwind speed. It was all over within 5 days! Obviously Georgia is a far smaller country than Russia but this surely ignores the fact that the Russian army must have many commitments all over the place and in the time available could only have committed no more than a fraction of its forces to the battle. I read somewhere (I think it was in Novosti) that on the actual battlefield in South Ossetia and in Georgia the size of the forces deployed by each side on the ground was actually about the same though the Russians obviously had a big advantage in the air and at sea and in some types of equipment. The way at the time it looked to me was that the Russian army was attacking all the time and from all directions and in the face of this the Georgian army simply disintegrated. By contrast much of the media commentary about the war I have read in the west leaves one wondering how the Russians won at all.

        As for the Second Chechen War I can clearly remember that at the time it was launched in 1999 the overwhelming expectation amongst the media in the west was that the Russian army would be defeated. In fairness the chaotic conduct of the First Chechen War (which I suspect had more to do with Yeltsin than the army itself) made this expectation understandable. I remember the anger when it became clear in the autumn of 1999 that on the contrary the Russian army was going to win. The Guardian’s virulent hostility to Putin by the way dates from this war. I remember reading an editorial in the Guardian around the time of the fall of Grozny, which all but called on Yeltsin to sack him. Notwithstanding the problems that still exist in the northern Caucasus I think I am justified in saying that to date the Second Chechen War is the only successful war anyone has fought in recent years against an Islamist insurgency.

        • marknesop says:

          Criticism of the way Russia managed the war holds that the Russian Army had large numbers of armoured units prepositioned on the Russian side of the Roki Tunnel, just waiting for Saakashvili to “take the bait”. And I mentioned in this post how Ryzhkov complained that the government was warning the public two years in advance that Saakashvili intended to recover the two wayward republics by force. It hardly required explanation by interpretive dance to see why; NATO may not legally accept an applicant who has ongoing and unsettled territorial disputes. Saakashvili badly wanted to get Georgia into NATO, and for its part, the west was eager to accept him. So he got a little carried away. But Russia was well aware of the threat Georgia represented and where it would be most likely to strike first. Therefore, I’m sure the Army was alerted and briefed and a supply line established against the possibility of Saakashvili doing exactly as he did; after all, contingency planning is as much a part of the Army as camouflage clothing and lousy food. I wouldn’t go so far as to say there were large numbers of units prepositioned, although there were likely some, but it would have been stupid not to be ready in the face of numerous warning signs, and the Army was ready. Hence the rapid and decisive counterstrike. And had it been otherwise, and units taken days to respond, the western press would have been brimming over with gleeful chuckling stories of how Saakashvili “caught the Russians with their pants down”. In the extreme, South Ossetia might even have fallen, and Russia would have had to fight a more difficult action to get it back. Also in that case, western support for Georgia might have been firmer, possession being nine-tenths of the law. The Russian government doubtless knew that and planned for it. Russian air superiority played a key role, and the clip of Saakashvili scampering for cover after being shielded by his aides’ portfolios and briefcases remains as amusing today as when it happened. This comic version, in which Putin personally flies a mission to exterminate Saakashvili, always makes me laugh.

          The west likes to mock the Russian military forces, a shadow of what they once were, and contrast its own bristling, pugnacious buildup with Russia’s gradual drawdown. But western militaries like to work from the standpoint of overwhelming force, and to sweep the enemy before them by gaining and keeping momentum. The American drive to Baghdad was considered to have validated the “strike fast, strike hard, don’t let up” doctrine…but it was almost completely unopposed. What would it have looked like had it faced determined opposition? The USA would have won, naturally; the balance of forces in the arena was heavily in its favour, and the U.S. military is extremely good at what it does. But as it was, the U.S. military did not begin to pay a price until the slow grind of insurgency commenced. It has had a recent history of fighting small militaries, often with obsolescent equipment, poor training and little or no discipline. things might be different if the Russian Army were the opposition.

          • Giuseppe Flavio says:

            Hi Mark,
            I recall that just before the 2008 war the Russian Army did some drillings in the North Caucasus. I think it was for two reasons: prepare for the worst and give a warning to Georgia. A warning that Georgia and the West ignored. As I have discussed on Anatoly’s blog, both Georgia and her Western backers lived under the delusion that Russia wouldn’t dare to intervene, and in case there was a Russian reaction it would be clumsy, slow and very costly for the Russian army. In short, it’s a clear case of someone fooled by his own propaganda.
            IMHO, this delusional expectations may explain the sudden collapse of the Georgian army. They thought they weren’t going to face the Russians, and in case they had, that they could play Rambo and the Russians play the targets. After three days of fighting they had to face the reality and did the only sane thing left. Run away.
            Also, I have the impression that the Russians were taken by surprise by the sudden collapse of the Georgians.
            You’re right, the size of the forces were roughly equal, with a small advantage for the Georgians, at the least on paper.

  20. Turning to more political questions, am I the only one who has noticed the contrast between the way the two demonstrations in Moscow were reported by the western media and the way the western media has reported the recent demonstration in Hungary?

    From what I have been able to piece together the demonstration in Hungary was about the same size as the demonstration in Moscow. Of course in terms of the population the proportion of people who demonstrated in Hungarywas an order of magnitude greater. In contrast to the Russia the government in Hungary seems to be genuinely unpopular and again in contrast to Russia, Hungary seems to be in the grip of a worsening economic crisis and could be on the brink of economic collapse. Not a single British newspaper has however thought fit to comment on the situation in Hungary on its editorial pages even though (or because?) Hungary is an ancient European country and a member of both the EU and NATO and even though (or because?) Hungary (unlike Russia) has in the form of the Jobbik party what appears to be a genuine honest-to-goodness fascist party waiting in the wings and possibly positioning itself to take power. Contrast this with the flood of editorials we saw last month in the British newspapers about Russia. In December in the Guardian alone I counted four.

    • Correction. I have just been told that there was one editorial about Hungary in the Guardian. One about Hungary. Four about Russia.

      • marknesop says:

        In fact, although western coverage was slow to get started and seemed rather grudging and reluctant, if you insert “Russia” in place of “Hungary” it is broadly similar in tone if not in enthusiasm. For example, you’ll see no gleeful speculation that “this is, finally, the end of Viktor Orban – good riddance!!” or anything like it. But The Economist quotes from an opposition blog and suggests the combined forces of opposition factions and activists are taking over the streets. It also points out that the USA and the EU have pressured the Hungarian government to reconsider its legislation in light of its possible breach of treaty obligations. There’s no attempt to quantitize the protest beyond “tens of thousands”, however, and certainly no attempt to pad the numbers to make them seem larger.

        The New York Times (whose photo shows a much more subdued crowd than featured in The Economist, they look more like they are listening to a speech than protesting) also puts the numbers of the “rare opposition protests” at “tens of thousands”. The paper also quotes activists who say “Democracy has disappeared” in Hungary. But neither source cited proposes that democracy never existed in Hungary, and qualifies all its criticisms with “critics say…” rather than stating them as if they were facts.

        Although I agree there’s an absence of excited “here it is; what we’ve been waiting for…” enthusiasm in the coverage by western sources, it is generally similar in structure to coverage of the Russian protests, if not in frequency.

        • Dear Mark,

          I agree with you that the western media is unsympathetic to the Hungarian government. My comment was more about the difference in the intensity and scale of the commentary rather than in its political slant.

          • marknesop says:

            And in that respect, you are correct; the west appears nowhere near as joyful about the Hungarian protests and far more inclined to give the government the benefit of the doubt. I just wanted to point out – in fairness to the western press – that they are not ignoring the protests as they did in Georgia when Saakashvili declared martial law and started shutting down independent media. This is far closer to unbiased, fact-based reporting than the coverage of the Russian protests, in which it was easy to discern enthusiastic support for the protesters and no interest at all in the government’s position.

  21. kievite says:

    Orthodox church entered the debate about Duma elections. Quote from Patriarch Kirill’s Saturday interview on the channel “Russia-1:

    – The main task is to ensure that the legitimately expressed protests (after the December elections. – Ed.) served as a feedback which led to the correction of political cause of the government. If “power that be” remains insensitive to the expression of protest, this is a very bad sign, a sign of failure of authorities to self-adjustment. Government should self-tune, including by sensing external signals, and adjust course accordingly.

    – If something happens, the society shall have the right to express their discontent, but at the same time society should also have wisdom, because there are always those who want to use this discontent for their own political purposes.
    Goggle translation
    Q: Well now the events of the political and public life became condensed. Some of our fellow citizens considered the elections to the parliament to be unfair. And there were rolling actions of protest in the country. The most numerous in Moscow. And the people who gathered at Bolotni Sq, and Sakharov Avenue, have completely different political views, but they were united by a single slogan – “For Fair Elections!”. At the end of the year in the midst of rallies you in a sermon calling for the preservation of civil peace and consent. But ahead of us, perhaps, the most responsible and important election – the presidential election. What would lake to say today, both to those in power, and protesters> How to find a mutual understanding? Is it possible to protest, without endangering and undermining the foundation of our common home?

    Patriarch Kirill:

    – Your last sentence is key. Each person in a free society should have the right to express their views, including opposition to the actions of the authorities. If people are deprived of this right, it is perceived as a restriction of liberty. It is very painful. Let us remember the same thing the Soviet era. There was no such law. It was declared on paper only, but in reality does not exist. In Novocherkassk people came out to the streets and said that situation was bad, salaries are paid with delay. And what? Blood was spilled. That means that people had no such right.

    And now there is such a right. And, of course, people use this particular right. And if people feel the presence of injustice, some deception, manipulation, and thus express their opinion, it is very important to express this is such as way as not to shake the foundations. For the church this question is very sensitive, because our parishioners were among those who came to the square and they were also among those against whom they protected on the square. Therefore, the church sermon should not be politicized, it can not be unbalanced in the fundamental sense of this word. Not in the sense of fake balance of diplomatic protocol, but in the sense that the word church must carry the truth, which would be acceptable to everybody — to both opposing forces. And the single truth in this situation is that the lie should be reduced in our aspects of our environment. From the political, from economic, from social.

    But let me now say something that can not leave indifferent anybody who protested in the square. Let’s address the personal life. Were not among the protesters, those who deceives her husband or his wife? Who runs parallel life? Who is crooked in business? But if we lie and deceive in pour personal and professional life, why we so hotly demand that those ills were exterminated on macro level. And on micro level they are OK, The church declare that those levels are interconnected and on each level that should be truthfulness. At the level of individual, family, labor collective. At the level of political parties. At the level of economic corporations. At the government level. At the level of those who lead the country. The truthfulness should be at each level. When I spoke about God’s truth, I had in mind the truthfulness, life with harmony with your consciousness. At the end the concept of truth it’s just God’s living in accordance with commandments. We must learn to live according to God’s truth. That is, we should not lie to each other.

    The second point, one which we have with yourself have said, if something happens, the society should have the right to express their discontent. But it must be some wisdom. Now, if the demonstration that preceded the Revolution of 1917 ended in an expression of peaceful protest and did not follow with bloodbath of revolution and civil war. In this case today Russia would be more than 300 million people and was either the same as the United States, in terms of economic development, or even exceeded this country. We failed. We were not able to keep the balance, to keep wisdom. We destroyed our country. Why did this happen? It happened because just protests of people very cleverly used by those political forces who seek power. A radical shift in power – it is always a change of elites. Remember the calls of our great Democrats in the late Soviet era: the need to destroy the nomenclature, we must reject all those people who go to black “Volga”.

    Q: Well, and of course, to remove shades in government cars.

    Patriarch Kirill:

    – Yes, to remove shades in government cars. Do you remember? Indeed, under this slogan thousands came out. What happened? They took power and replaced black “Volga” with black “Mercedes.”

    Q: They put flash lights.

    Patriarch Kirill:

    – Yes, they put flash lights. And they appropriated the resources of the country. I do not condone what happened. But I’m just talking about how easy it is to tempt man. The same thing happened during the revolution of 1917. “Rob the robbers!”. And they started to break into the apartments and to destroy estates. Burned the country! And where is now what was stolen? The new elite in the only one who get some peaces of it. And did the standard of living of common people improved as a result? The main task is to ensure that the legitimately expressed protests (after the December elections. – Ed.) served as a feedback which led to the correction of political cause of the government. If “power that be” remains insensitive to the expression of protest, this is a very bad sign, a sign of failure of authorities to self-adjustment. Government should self-tune, including by sensing external signals, and adjust course accordingly.

    I do not want to preach, I just want to say how I try to work myself. I always try to hear these signals. And through the Internet, through correspondence. And there is a constant, if you can see, self-tuning of the church establishment. Perhaps insufficient. I am aware that we are very far from perfect. But this feedback in the church does exists. It also exists because the priests listen to peoples confessions.

  22. kievite says:

    An interesting quote about Navalny.

    It’s unclear whether this is about negotiations about future members in Navalny’s future government or not but dual interpretations are possible: (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/12/28/russian-opposition-leader-demands-new-elections.html ):

    Q: Do you have a solid consensus with other opposition leaders?

    A: Unfortunately, what I see now is that most of my colleagues, no matter how passionately they were involved in opposition activity yesterday, feel eager to run and negotiate themselves a seat in some ministry

    Another interesting quote about Mariya Gaydar, who seems to be the leader of DA! (Democratic Alternative) ( http://www.prisonplanet.com/wall-street-journal-determines-russian-election-a-fraud.html )

    Alexey Navalny was a Yale World Fellow, and in his profile it states:

    “Navalny spearheads legal challenges on behalf of minority shareholders in large Russian companies, including Gazprom, Bank VTB, Sberbank, Rosneft, Transneft, and Surgutneftegaz, through the Union of Minority Shareholders. He has successfully forced companies to disclose more information to their shareholders and has sued individual managers at several major corporations for allegedly corrupt practices. Navalny is also co-founder of the Democratic Alternative movement and was vice-chairman of the Moscow branch of the political party YABLOKO. In 2010, he launched RosPil, a public project funded by unprecedented fundraising in Russia. In 2011, Navalny started RosYama, which combats fraud in the road construction sector.”

    The Democratic Alternative, also written DA!, is indeed a National Endowment for Democracy fund recipient, meaning that Alexey Navalny is an agent of US-funded sedition and willfully hiding it from his followers. The US State Department itself reveals this as they list “youth movements” operating in Russia:

    “DA!: Mariya Gaydar, daughter of former Prime Minister Yegor Gaydar, leads DA! (Democratic Alternative). She is ardent in her promotion of democracy, but realistic about the obstacles she faces. Gaydar said that DA! is focused on non-partisan activities designed to raise political awareness. She has received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, a fact she does not publicize for fear of appearing compromised by an American connection.”

    Alexey was involved directly in founding a movement funded by the US government and to this day has the very people who funded DA! defending him throughout Western media. (For more information, please see, “Wall Street Vs. Russia.”)

    This Maria Gaidar is a pretty sleazy politian (http://www.dadebatam.ru/text7.html)

    Paul, Moscow: – Question to Mary. I would like to ask. I know that you are working at the institute of your father, I wonder what is your postition, what exactly do you do there and who is financing this institution.

    Maria Gaidar: – You know, I’m in graduate school. When you are in graduate school, that’s your main employment. At the Institute of Transitional Economics in cooperation with Academy of National Economy.

    I studied at the Academy of National Economy, and then went back to graduate school, which turned out to be just joint ( the Institute of Transitional Economics).

    Most of the time I am doing social work, it will confirm my colleagues. I am the president of the fund to support youth programs, the Movement “Yes”, is now envolved with the election compaign of Union of Right Forces as well as doing research work mainly for myself, for my dissertation. That’s it.

    And the institute receives funding from various sources from the government, from some grants, from the World Bank, and so on. There are many different project that are funded from entierely different sources.

    BTW she has an excellent command of English language

    See also

    • yalensis says:

      Maria is cute, she looks like she is about 14 years old!

      • marknesop says:

        Uncle Vanya, stop using Yalensis’s account!!! Just because he didn’t log off properly does not mean you can use his account to cruise for underage chicks.

        • kievite says:

          Not that I want to question Uncle Vanya/Yalensis taste but it might be prudent to note that there is a substantial variety among relatively young female politicians

          From “liberasts” camp:





          And from United Russia:
          Tina Kandelaki


  23. Evgeny says:

    A little offtopic — spam — or an announcement. Prefer whichever fits better :)

    We at polismi.org have opened an English forum branch. (Okey, technically it’s a mixed English-Russian branch — both languages are allowed). The team follows that branch, so feel free to use it to pass an interesting link, or to talk to patriotically-minded Russians whenever you like.

    It’s our first step in the direction of being more open to English communities. (Hopefully, more will follow.)

    If you feel interested, then
    1) Go to the


    2) Change the forum interface from default Russian to English language. To do it, scroll the page to the bottom. There you will see a menu item set to (RU). Change it to “English (USA)”.

    3) Now you can see that the forum consists of a large number of Russian branches, and only the last branch — “News of The World” — is in English.

    4) To write to the forum, you need to get registered. If you have followed step 2), now all the fields (but one) in the registration form are in English. But, to get registered, you are required to have a passing knowledge of the Russian, to answer the registration question — namely, to know how to write Putin’s last name in Russian. (Spelling must be correct!)

    5) Have fun!

  24. kievite says:

    An interesting quote from http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/the-anti-putin-campaign-6346 . Looks like a bad translation from Russian, so I made some corrections to restore the meaning.

    People mentioned look like a circle of Yegor Gaidar friends concentrated around INSOR (the Institute for Contemporary Development which Medvedev chairs) and the Russian Union of Industrialists & Entrepreneurs (RSPP), the leading business lobbying organization in Russia :

    Many prominent names were involved in utterly discrediting the existing socio-political system and its architect, Putin. The massive campaign included a slew of reports by the Institute for Contemporary Development (which Medvedev chairs), speeches by members of its leadership such as Igor Yurgens and Evgeny Gontmakher, analysts and politicians in the Kremlin, Medvedev’s economic aide Arkady Dvorkovich, former political advisor Gleb Pavlovsky and others who desired a second term for President Medvedev.

    They planned to prevent any possibility of Putin returning as president in 2012. In the national press and elite circles, the message was clear: the return of Putin means stagnation; it is a Brezhnev regime 2.0 with an old sclerotic leader; it would mean a rapid increase in corruption and a confrontation with the West.

    This [idea] especially amused [ more correct translation might be "excited" -- kievite] the organizers of Medvedev’s Yaroslavl Forum, including economist and writer Vladislav Inozemtsev, as well as Yurgens, Pavlovsky and their circles. In the end, a nucleus of people working against the return of Putin formed among elites and media, who spread the wishes [Should probably be "demands" -- kievite] of the radical opposition as if their grievances were legitimate and reflected the opinions of part of the establishment.

    …this campaign, if not initiated by the highest levels at the Kremlin, was at least implicitly supported by them. For some in the pundit community and journalistic circles, it sounded the horn for attack. If the high level of trust by the population had previously rendered Putin untouchable from the assaults of journalists and experts, this taboo was now gone, removed either by the Kremlin itself or at least by a segment of the pro-Kremlin politicians, analysts and journalists.

    This quote for the first time (at least for me) outlines the possible composition of the part of Medvedev’s inner circle that is adamantly against return of Putin and institutions that became the brain trust of the opposition: INSOR (look at the board http://www.insor-russia.ru/en/_leadership/board_of_trustees ) and RSPP

    Two personalities mentioned as pro-western as Kasparov, or Nemtsev and belong to the Russian Union of Industrialists & Entrepreneurs (RSPP) so it would be logical to assume that they are Alexander Shokhin people. The latter was the member of Yelstin “family” (former Deputy Prime Minister) and was instrumental in Yeltsin’s privatization. See http://articles.cnn.com/1997-01-22/world/9701_22_yeltsin_1_alexander-kotenkov-russian-presidency-prime-minister-viktor-chernomyrdin )
    Dr. Igor Yurgens

    is Chairman of the Management Board of the Institute of Contemporary Development. Prior, Mr. Yurgens was the Executive Secretary of the Russian Union of Industrialists & Entrepreneurs (RSPP), a leading business lobbying organization in Russia where he is now Vice President, and the Chairman of the Financial Markets Committee of the Russian Federation Chamber of Commerce and Industry from 2000 to 2004, among other positions.

    Dr. Yurgens is a member of the Public Chamber of Russia and Deputy Chairman of the Expert Council on Priority National Projects and Demographic Policy. He is a professor at the State University – Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

    Evgeny Gontmakher

    Deputy director of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO).
    Dr. Gontmakher graduated with a degree in Geography from Moscow State University and holds a Ph.D. in Economics. From 1993 to 1994 he served as Deputy Minister for Social Protection, 1994-1995 – Department Head within the Administration of the Russian Government, 1998-2003 – Head of the Social Development Department of the Cabinet Apparatus, 2003-2004 – Vice President of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. 2006-2009 – Head of Social Policy Center, Institute of Economics, Russian Academy of Sciences.
    See also http://www.rferl.org/content/The_Intellectual_And_The_Propagandist/1763740.html

    • marknesop says:

      “If the high level of trust by the population had previously rendered Putin untouchable from the assaults of journalists and experts, this taboo was now gone, removed either by the Kremlin itself or at least by a segment of the pro-Kremlin politicians, analysts and journalists. ”

      Horseshit. This is the selfsame element that has never supported Putin since they realized he was not going to continue Yeltsin’s program of shock therapy and privatization; Inozemtsev and Gaidar (while he was alive), Mau and Gurvich and Yasin, the “blue-blood” economists from the Moscow Higher school of Economics who are always moaning about imminent collapse, and who have been laughably wrong every time. I swear, if I had a dog as useless at dog stuff as Vladimir Mau is at economics, I would shave his ass and teach him to walk backwards. This is really making me mad. This is the same cavalcade of clowns that Open Democracy and RFE/RL cites almost every year as the “discontented elites” who must be appeased in their demands or they will take their blinding talent elsewhere. What they really are is a circle-jerk in smoking jackets and cigarette holders, dizzy with their own brilliance, who collectively could not get together to pour piss out of a boot if the directions were printed on the heel.

      Here’s an open invitation to Vladimir Mau, Vladislav Inozemtsev, Vladimir Ryzhkov, Yevsei Gurvich, Yevgeny Yasin and the rest of the default malcontents who would bitch if they were wearing angora underwear. Go. Fuck off. Get your visas, and hit the road, Jack. I’m sure the U.S. government will put you up in a little safe house in Chevy Chase or someplace nice, and you can all sit around the table all day and write your memoirs. “How I Escaped The Savage Reign Of Bloodthirsty Putin The Black-Hearted”. Believe me, nobody will miss you, and if the USA gives you jobs as economists, they’re stupider than I ever thought they were, because you stink out loud at it. Russia will be better off without you.

      Seriously, this whole narrative makes me want to laugh. It’s all about Putin’s power vertical being systematically dismantled brick by brick by conscientious, democracy-loving altruists who just want to see Russia be truly free and prosperous. What it actually is is a bunch of elite chronic complainers, ne’er-do-well lazy dilettantes looking for a handout and earnest western wanna-be’s who think benevolent western influence will transform the place into Malibu Beach overnight getting snookered by slick western regime-change artists who have no interest in the place beyond shoving a hockey stick in the spokes until the wheels fall off.

      One more time. If a new people’s champion emerges, what does he plan to do differently in order to restore 8%+ growth? That’s really what we’re talking about here, because what that sneering clique of assrockets dismiss as “stagnation” is actually around 4% growth. So whoever they’re lusting to see take the helm must be able to promise much better. How’s he going to do that? Presumably without relying on energy revenues, since the west keeps hammering away on that being silly economic policy even if you have lots of it. It all boils down to this – if you replace Putin, and you’re not an idiot, you need to replace him with somebody who can do better.

      Who’s that?

      If you listen to western advice, you deserve what happens to you. And believe me, it will not be good. If the west can’t run it, they’ll ruin it.

  25. kievite says:

    Real “anti-corruption” efficiency (money saved due to challenging of result of “corrupted” autions, etc) of Navalny famous Raspil site is marginal (less then 2%).


    It looks like his ability to count money that he supposedly saved is on the same level as his ability to count the number of protesters on Sakharov Sq.

    In other words Raspil is nothing more then a sophisticated PR project.

  26. kievite says:

    An interesting fact: head of NTV channel was previously employed by Svoboda

  27. yalensis says:

    Continuing thread about Navalny fake photo , here is story told by photographer, Alexei Yushenkov (known by nik of “Yustas”), going back to this original source might help us figure out if this whole thing was a set-up.

    Шло 25 мая 2011 года. Я только закончил снимать купающихся в фонтанах выпускников. (Ну есть у меня традиция каждый последний звонок снимать). Закончил и поехал поснимать Михаила Прохорова на Эхо Москвы. Ибо он в тот момент решил возглавить “Правое дело”. Приехал, подснял. Смотрю сетку – а следующий гость – Алексей Навальный. Ну – думаю – надо снять двух гигантов вместе. Эфир у Прохорова заканчивается. Я стою напротив кабинета Венедиктова, куда только-что зашел Прохоров. Мимо проходит Навальный и заглядывает поздороваться. Я сразу – давай вместе! На что мне Алексей отвечает, хорошо, только чтобы я был выше! Все засмеялись – ну и я попытался. Сделал несколько кадров и рванул дальше на конкурс – Мисс ЖЖ, где меня ждали. Дома отсматривая фотографии я пришел к выводу, что ни одну фотографию признать получившийся нельзя. Тогда я выбираю, где Навальный вроде как выше Прохорова и отправляю ему на почту со словами – мол сорри осечка вышла. На что получаю ответ. – Да неудачная, оставлю на память только ты ее не распространяй. Сказано – сделано.

    Проходит полгода. Я возвращаюсь в Москву. Начинаю читать френд-ленту и вижу этот пост Навального. Я в шоке.

    It was May 25, 2011…. I had just finished photographing [some graduating students cavorting in the fountains], and I went off to photograph Mikhail Prokhorov [doing interview at] “Echo Moskvy”. That was around the time he had decided to lead “Just Cause” [political party]. I arrived, did the shoot. I look at (the schedule), and the next guest is Alexei Navalny. Hmm, I think, why not shoot these two giants together. Prokhorov is just finishing (his on-air interview). I am standing opposite Venediktov’s office, into which Prokhorov just went. Navalny strolls by and pokes his head in to say hello. Right away I propose: “Let’s do it!” (Let me shoot both of you together). To which Alexei answers: “Okay, but try to make me look taller (than Prokhorov). “ [Translator note: This is big joke, because Prokhorov is, like, the tallest guy in the world.] Everybody laughs, and, well, I tried. [Translator note: he is trying to explain why the odd angle of the shot with Navalny so much in foreground.] I shot several frames, then I had to take off [for the Miss Twitter contest where they were watiing for me ] [?] Once I got home I looked through the photos and came to the conclusion that none of them was very good. But I select one where he at least looks taller than Prokhorov and mail it to him with the words, Sorry, it too [cropped?]. I receive (Navalny’s) reply: “Yes, it didn’t come out well, I will keep as souvenir, but please do not publish.” I give him my word (and keep my word).
    A half year goes by. I return to Moscow. I start to read a friend [wall page?], and I see this Navalny post. I am in shock.”

    In other words, Yustas did not know that his photograph had been stolen, until he saw it on Navalny’s own blog.
    Yustas goes on to describe being upset by the theft of his work. He seems clearly to be trying to deflect any suspicion that he himself had disseminated the unsuccessful Navalny-Prokhorov photo.
    So, if Yustas and Navalny were the only two people who had copies of this unsuccessful photograph (of Navalny and Prokhorov, which served as the source of the fake), and if Yustas did not disseminate the photograph, then how the heck did the Ekaterinburg paper get hold of it? Hmmm? Inquiring minds want to know….

    • marknesop says:

      Thank you for that, Detective Yalensis; that certainly is interesting. I have to say it reminds me of the story just a little while ago about the Russians leaving for Israel who supposedly had a sad little party the night before they left because they knew they were never coming back, but they just couldn’t live in Putin’s Russia any more, bla, bla. It seems to me that was exposed as nonsense by a LiveJournal post as well, that the author of the piece had gone ahead with the sentimental fleeing-from-Russia story so beloved of the western press even though he knew they were going to Israel for medical reasons and had to stay at least 6 months.

      It looks as if Navalny expected the photographer to just go along with the narrative, and cooperate. Maybe he’s not loved as much as he thinks he is. Or else it’s as you suggest, and the photographer just wanted to make sure everyone knew it wasn’t him who “leaked it to the Kremlin”. Maybe the Navalnyites have out-clevered themselves this time.

      Another nice side-effect of the scheme – if it succeeds – will be to mute criticism in advance of Navalny for being associated with western NGO’s and the recipient of western regime-change schooling. A successful marketing of the notion the Kremlin faked an incriminating photo because it fears Navalny’s power will make further criticism seem to be coming from the same untrustworthy source, and it will be more likely to be ignored.

      • yalensis says:

        The thing I cannot figure out is that the photographer Alexei Yushenkov (= Yustas) clearly seems to be a Navalnyite, or at least Orangeoid type person in his political sympathies. And yet his account does not really seem to authenticate Navalny’s claim. If anything, it raises suspicions about Navalny, since Yustas is very clear that he did not disseminate the photo. The missing link is who did what and how in the Ekaterinburg gazette. How did they get the original photo (which they then crudely photo-shopped)? Am I missing something?

        • marknesop says:

          Yes, of course; the photo which arrived at the Yekaterinburg paper likely was already PhotoShopped. There’s no particular evidence I’ve seen to suggest the paper did it themselves; it could have arrived in either hard or electronic copy with the alterations already made. Anyone could have done it, since it is deliberately amateurish; just about anyone who could start PhotoShop or a comparable photo-editing program could do it. The paper would only need to copy it; if they got it in electronic format, even easier. Simply insert it into the text at the desired spot.

          The thing is, whoever sent it was either Yustas or Navalny, or someone who got it from one of them – assuming Yustas is telling the truth, and that the only printed copy (although Yustas would have the negative) went to Navalny. I’d be interested in what the paper has to say about how they came by it, but they probably won’t say because they want to protect their source. But if I had to guess, I’d say an anonymous writer who sent the already-altered photo, likely accompanied by a short message that suggested Navalny is not being honest about his ties with the super-rich western oligarchy democracy activists. The paper may not have noticed it was a fake, although it’s hard to imagine that. They may have been in a hurry to get an exclusive, believing copies had been sent to other papers as well. Alternatively, they may not have cared, knowing it would turn into a big story no matter what.

          There’s nothing that says because Yustas is a Navalny supporter, he must therefore be a liar and deceiver. He no doubt has quite a number of followers who are neither.

          • Dear Yalensis,

            This is all very interesting.

            I am sure Yustas is telling the truth. Why would he lie? The short answer to all the speculation must therefore be that if the only two people who had copies of the photograph were Yustas and Navalny and if Yustas never gave copies of the photo to anyone except Navalny then in order for the photo to have got to Yekaterinburg it must have been leaked either by (1) Navalny or (2) someone Navalny gave the photo to or (3) someone who stole the photo either from Navalny or (less plausibly) from Yustas.

            Bluntly this all looks very suspicious. Neither Navalny nor Yustas has claimed that the photo was stolen as they surely would have done if it had been. This must therefore mean that the photo must have been leaked either by Navalny or by someone Navalny gave the photo to. Either way it points the finger back at Navalny. I suppose it is too much to expect that anyone will ask him any questions about it?

          • yalensis says:

            Oh, I have no doubt that “Yustas” is an honest man and cares about his integrity as a professional photographer. But, if he is a Navalny supporter (I say “IF” because I don’t know for sure), then his shocked reaction might have a second subtext: the worry that his fellow Navalnyites will suspect him of double-dealing (=collaborating with the Putinoids) and ostracize him from their cult. That was why he was so quick to declare: “I promised Navalny I would not disseminate the photo, and I kept my word.” He is reassuring the Navalnyites that he is still one of them, not a traitor to the cause. His quickness to defend himself from that suspicion may have been a mis-speak from the POV of cult leader, who now has to explain how Ekaterinburg gazette got hold of that photo.

  28. yalensis says:

    I am trying to find out more about the Navalny/Yustas photograph. The article accompanying the fake photograph, which was apparently published in some local gazette in Ekaterinburg (not sure of the name of the paper, it might be the “Komsomolka”, but I am not sure). The article was written by a journalist named Svetlana Ovsova. I cannot get hold of the paper or the original article, all I can do at this point is trascribe the segments of text that are visible in the photo of it on Navalny blog. Only 2 fragments of a couple of paragraphs are visible:

    “Вся это переписка к великому сожалению доказывает что Леша разоблачает за деньги и тех кого ему заказывают,” – прокомментировала внезапно вскрывшиеся факты (…)
    И судя по реакции Интернета многие оказались не готовы принять “настоящего Навального”.
    Svetlana Ovsova [author]

    Just from these fragments, it is clear that the piece is intended as an expose of Navalny:

    “Lesha [Navalny] is a crusader for money, and he exposes those whom he is paid/ordered [to expose]…”
    And judging by the reaction of the Internet, many (people) are not prepared to see the “true Navalny”.

    I googled the journalist Svetlana Ovsova who authored the anti-Navalny piece in the Ekaterinburg paper. There is nothing about her except for her role in this scandal, and every reference to her leads back to the same Navalny blog and associated comments on his forum.
    Friends, I must tell you, it is difficult and painful chore trying to sieve through 3000 comments of Navalny supporters, in many cases it is like seeing the contents of disturbed and ugly minds. They are making fun of this unknown woman, Ovsova, comparing her to a horse, much obscenity in the comments and graphics. Cultish adoration of Navalny.
    But a couple of more healthy commenters are asking the right questions that I would like to know as well, e.g., what is the name of the Ekaterinburg paper? Who is this journalist Ovsova, what else has she written and published? How did she obtain the fake photo?
    mooncat asks: абсолютно дурацкий вопрос…. а где можно познакомится с оригиналом газеты/статьи? источник – странный. а газета “комсомолка на урале” – таки это на деревню дедушке… g3n3rator replies with contact information and phone numbers for the newspaper: г. Екатеринбург, ул. Мамина-Сибиряка, д. 52, оф. 302
    +7 (343) 379-27-71 Общий
    +7 (343) 379-27-73 Реклама
    +7 (343) 379-27-74 Реклама
    +7 (343) 379-27-75 Распространение
    +7 (343) 379-27-72 Редакция

    One commenter claims that Ms. Ovsova does not exist. Another claims she is the daughter of some person named Dmitry Ovsov, who is a local politician in the Urals region.
    My best guess from the little that I know: this Svetlana Ovsova is probably a real person, writing a sincere anti-Navalnyite piece. Her written expose of Navalny is valid, regardless of the invalidity of accompanying photo. She may not have even been the person who coupled the text with the photo, that would have been done by editorial staff. Any journalists out there? Copy writers usually do not pick the photos, correct?

    • marknesop says:

      Copywriters usually do not pick the photos when they are chosen simply as a generic support to the story; you write a story about dog behavior, for example, and the print editor or one of the subheads inserts a photo of a man holding a torn newspaper, scolding a puppy. But anyone who knows anything at all about politics would know that photo is the story. Something concrete linking Navalny and Berezovsky, which has them both laughing and grinning? Wow. I’d bet anyone in publishing would recognize it as solid gold (assuming it was real) in an instant. The accompanying text is just amplification – be careful not to overdo it, and hello, journalism award.

      However, in the age that took down a reporter of Dan Rather’s stature over forged text documents claiming to have dirt on George Bush’s Air National Guard Service – typographic experts were all over that: “the Daisywheel 500 font (or whatever) wasn’t developed until 1987, it’s impossible for it to have been used here, bla, bla..” only the truly expert or the truly naive try to pass off fakes as real. Experts can tell if even a text document is a fake by the fonts used; if you want to fake something from the 1960’s, better have an unaltered 1960’s typewriter. Not only is it very unlikely anyone would seriously try to pass off such a clumsy fake as authentic, it’s difficult to imagine a junior reporter nobody has ever heard of at some cowchip provincial gazette would run with a story based on such an obvious fake – supporting the storyline the photo intends to convey, even – without checking first to see if this blockbuster game-changing photo is the real goods. The editor would have to be in a coma and only able to raise one finger for his/her judgment to be misunderstood: this photo is a fake. You can still do a story, but do one on why somebody would send you such an obvious fake.

      It’s also curious that Navalny made no attempt to defend himself, such as, “I’ve never met Mr. Berezovsky, in England or elsewhere, and probably wouldn’t recognize him; all skeevy billionaires look alike to me” rather than jumping straight to “The Kremlin is bad at the internet”, just in case you might be in doubt as to who is responsible.

      The whole thing is extremely sketchy.

    • Dear Yalensis,

      You are doing amazing work here.

      The story is getting stranger and stranger by the minute. We have a photo appearing in a newspaper that has become the subject of international attention and yet there is uncertainty about the name of the newspaper. There is even uncertainty about the background and even reality of the journalist who is supposed to have written the article in which the photograph was published. One would have thought that given the attention this affair has attracted these basic facts would be easily available especially as Yekaterinburg is not a mere backwater town but one of Russia’s biggest and richest cities and a major scientific and industrial centre. On top of that we have the mystery of how the photograph got to Yekaterinburg in the first place.

      Incidentally the more I have thought about it the more difficult it is for me to believe that the photo was stolen. Since the only people who knew of the existence of the photo were Navalny and Yustas this excludes the possibility that anyone stealing the photo planned to steal it since planning requires knowledge of its existence which apart from Navalny and Yustas no one had. This can only mean if the photo was stolen that this was a theft of opportunity with someone seeing the photo in either Navalny’s or Yustas’s flat or workplace and stealing it when he saw it.

      Frankly this doesn’t seem to me very likely. The photo itself contains nothing interesting so why would anyone who saw it want to steal it? The idea that whoever stole it instantly had the idea of using it to make a fake when he saw it seems to me farfetched and I think we can discount that idea. Also if the photo was stolen during a break in of either Yustas’s or Navalny’s flat or workplace why have we not heard anything about it? Could it have been taken from Navalny’s flat or workplace when he was in detention? Did the police search his flat or workplace after he was arrested? Surely if the photo was stolen either by a thief or by the police that is a more serious matter than the fake itself? If of course it was stolen by someone in Navalny’s organisation who had access to his flat or workplace then that suggests that he has traitors in his own organisation, which is an interesting thought and one that Navalny ought to be thinking about.

      Finally, if someone did go to all the trouble of stealing the photo how on earth does that explain how the photo ended up in Yekaterinburg of all places published in a newspaper of uncertain name by a journalist no one has heard of?

      PS: One last point about the photo. If it was never intended to be published why did Yustas and/or Navalny keep a copy of it?

      • Dear Yalensis,

        I should quickly add to the above that I have no doubt that the Yekaterinburg newspaper exists and that the unfortunate Svetlana Ovsova is a real person. The fact that there are photographs of the newspaper article puts the matter beyond doubt. Frankly it looks to me as if someone has played a cruel trick on a small local newspaper and a probably young and inexperienced journalist who has been made the patsy of what is looking to me increasingly like a deception operation. This unfortunate person has now had her reputation trashed and has been branded as an agent of the Kremlin not just in Russia but by the heavyweights of the international press including the New York Times, the London Times and the Guardian. If Navalny or his organisation are behind this then it shows what an utterly ruthless and manipulative bunch they are.

        By the way I agree with you about the cultic quality of this movement.

      • marknesop says:

        According to the blog entry by Yustas, he printed only one copy of the photo, which he sent to Navalny as a souvenir of the occasion. He could have printed more, of course, but there is no reason to expect he did; both because he was unsatisfied with the quality of the photos in general and because Navalny requested in writing that he not publish it.

        • Thanks Mark!

          I wish I could read Russian.

          Curiouser and curiouser as Alice once said. So there was only one copy of the photo and it was in Navalny’s possession. It then resurfaced in doctored form in an obscure newspaper in the provinces where it would have disappeared without trace were it not for the fact that Navalny and his organisation noticed it and thought fit to comment on it accusing the Kremlin of having doctored it.

          What conclusions should we draw? It seems to me that Navalny could be asked some hard questions. He may have some good answers which could explain everything but I would love to know what they are. Unfortunately I doubt he will ever be asked them.

          • marknesop says:

            The allegation that it was received in altered form by the Yekaterinburg paper is an assumption on my part; I don’t know that to be a fact. But the alternative is that the paper faked it themselves – presumably on the Kremlin’s instructions, if the prevailing narrative is to stand on its own feet.

            I’m afraid I don’t find that very believable. I imagine they received the photo already altered, and I’d be willing to bet it was accompanied (if it was mailed, and not simply handed over) by a note which included talking points that would steer the accompanying story into an exposé of Navalny’s alleged undisclosed contacts with foreign oligarchs. The last thing the Navalny camp would want would be a joking article saying, hey, look at this crude fake! It would have to be pointed in the direction of a deliberate smear using false evidence, so Navalny and his posse could clutch their pearls and scream, “rape!!!”

            I also doubt he will be held to account for it or asked for any detailed explanation. The exception to that will be if compelling evidence is unearthed that he did in fact have something to do with it. In that case, he will have plenty of ‘splaining to do, to paraphrase Ricky Ricardo.

            It often strikes me that the west – and I’m really talking about the United States here: not because I hate Americans (in fact, if you watch “When Mitt Romney Came To Town”, embedded here, you may have to fight tears as I did when you see the simple bewilderment of decent people living ordinary lives who had their feet kicked from under them), but because it is American interests that are hands-down the most involved in social engineering in foreign countries – coaxes neophyte democracies and those it wishes to become neophyte democracies to become engaged in the political process only because America is a master of using the political process to achieve its goals. In American political advertising, candidates can say whatever they wish about other candidates or elected officials without being legally bound to any standard of truth. Simply put, the U.S. argues for world democracy because its manipulation of electorates – including its own – is a powerful weapon that offers opportunities to exploit vulnerabilities to its advantage. The notion that it only wants everybody to be free to pursue their individual dream is sentimental hogwash fabricated to get the flag-wavers on board.

  29. kievite says:

    A good fuel for conspiracy theorists: a series of interesting co-incidences:

    1. Nikita Belykh is governor of Kirov region was nominated by Dmitry Medvedev on December 8, 2008. He is a former leader of the Union of Right Forces party (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikita_Belykh). An economist by training he did his postgraduate research about economics of Soviet labor camps in Oxford.

    2. In February 2009 Maria Gaidar became an advisor to the governor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Gaidar) and from March 26 a deputy governor, being just a 27 year post-grad student (the youngest in Russia for the position). In any case she was such an anti-Putin personality that appointing such figure was a definite slap in the face of Putin. So Belikh might enjoy really solid support of Medvedev to be able to make such bold moves or he has had a strong personal reasons. Please note that according to Wikipedia she was actively involved in 2008 Russian presidential election and produced numerous video materials where Vladimir Putin was painted as anti-Christ who leads the world to the nuclear Apocalypse. There are also rumors that she left for Harvard in mid 2011 after the crash in which 13 year old girl was killed: enjoyed




    3. In early 2009 Nikita Belykh also appointed Navalny his adviser. This was the place were Navalny raised in prominence. It is interesting that in the summer of that year, Navalny already led non-profit organization Foundation for supporting the initiatives of the Governor of the Kirov Region.

    4. Just before the election in November the tariff for hot water in the region was raised 40%. There was no changes in cost of electricity of other energy supplies during this period. They are frozen till June 2012. Here are the result of voting:

    1. Political party JUST RUSSIA 120 423 19.79%
    2. Political Party “Liberal Democratic Party of Russia” 101 613 16.70%
    3. Political Party “PATRIOTS OF RUSSIA” 7162 1.18%
    4. Political party “Communist Party of the Russian Federation,” 138 008 22.68%
    5. A political party “Russian United Democratic Party” Yabloko “16 583 2.72%
    6. All-Russian Political Party “UNITED RUSSIA” 212 389 34.90%
    7. All-Russian Political Party “The Union of right forces” 3422 0.56%

    5. On Jan 10 (the first working day after Christmas holidays in Russia) during the regular teleconference with the governors Putin asked deputy governor of the Kirov region Alexey Kuznetsov who represented the region why there was 40% raise of the tariff for hot water. He did not know. At this time Belykh was in Sweden for holidays. When contacted Belykh claimed that this was innocent mistake made in December that was soon discovered and corrected the same month. But Putin had shown the documents about raise in November, before the election:

    Press Secretary Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, said to the newspaper Vzglyad that the Prime Minister at the meeting has the bills for October and November. “Neither Belykh nor its employees do not deny that these accounts are true. A valid account is the best proof that in October was one amount for the hot water, and in November there was quite different amount, “- said Peskov.

    • yalensis says:

      Thanks @kievite, this is excellent research material about the “Kirov Gang” of politicians. I would not call this “conspiracy theory” or “coincidence”, is clear case of politicians appointing like-minded political cronies. Medvedev appoints Belykh, Belykh appoints Gaidar and Navalny. Medvedev himself is the source (from above) of this Orangeoid ferment in Russia. I guess he was meant to be Gorbachov 2.0 and bring about Peretroika 2.0. But, as Karl Marx once wrote, “All great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” Which makes Gorbachov the tragedy and Medvedev the farce!

      • Dear Kievite,

        I don’t think there is any doubt that it is Medvedev who has introduced Orangoid elements into the government, To understand this look at the conduct of his own Human Rights Council which has

        1. Campaigned actively for Khodorkovsky’s release and has now issued a report ridiculing the conviction in his second trial;

        2. Accused the officials involved in Magnitsky’s case of torturing him to death before their case comes to trial thereby trashing any idea that they are entitled to a presumption of innocence;

        3. Called for a general amnesty of all prisoners who have committed economic crimes;

        4. Called (I believe) for the annulment of the recent parliamentary elections!

        The only question to my mind is whether Medvedev has done this on purpose or as a useful idiot. I have to say I lean to the useful idiot hypothesis.

  30. kievite says:

    Interesting albeit controversial interview by Wasserman (in Russian)

    He confirmed my susption that around Medvedev there is circle of people who he calls “libertarian commissars” and named some members of this circle.

    Some interesting thought about Navalny.

    I am far from convinced about his treatment of Putin as a hostage of his own regime.

    • yalensis says:

      @kievite: Thanks for posting Wasserman interview, Wasserman is always worth listening to, even when he is wearing what appears to be an explosive vest!
      Wasserman makes some very good points about the course of study Navalny followed at Yale University (2010), where foreign graduate students study and learn techniques developed by Gene Sharp for overthrowing governments unfriendly to the United States.
      Around 8:30 minutes into the interview, Wasserman makes a hugely important point: “[Gene] Sharp positions his book as if it were an instruction manual for overthrowing authoritarian and even totalitarian regimes, but when you read it, you will see that all these methods only (really) work to overthrow democratic governments. Only against governments which sincerely attempt to consider (the views) of the people…”
      That is such a clear idea, very well expressed, and very clearly true.
      AT 13:00 in, Wasserman remarks, as many people have done, that Navalny’s speech at the Sakharov Avenue demonstration shows that he has been tutored and coached in the art of crowd psychology and manipulation. They discuss whether or not Navalny is an actual American spy or just being used by Americans, and cannot come to a clear conslusion (since this is by its nature unknowable).
      At 32:00 in, Wasserman discusses Kudrin’s (forced) resignation, and that this indicates a desire at least on the part of the Putin camp to change course from its 20-year adhererence to a particular economic model which caused the 2008 crash. This is interesting, because by this analysis, Putin wants to scrap this unfettered free-market model of capitalism (which Wasserman calls the “libertarian” model), which Putin himself (in conjunction with his mentor Yeltsin) is associated with, and start down a new economic path (=Eurasian Union, more centralized and more regulated economy, etc.) Wasserman believes that Putin intends to make this course corrective as soon as he returns to the Kremlin as President. In this he will be hampered by the fact that every functioning government economist (Wasserman calls them “commissars”) graduated from a Higher Institute of Economics which teaches the “free-market” model as the only valid economic model. Wasserman goes on to discuss the clique of “libertarian free-market” commissars surrounding Medvedev, but it is unclear to me from this (and seems a contradiction) why Medvedev fired Kudrin but not these others.

      • marknesop says:

        I love this guy, mostly because he plays to two of my favourite themes; one, that the west (mostly the United States) coaxes “nascent democracies” to fully commit to the political process because the United States is the global master – through the use of a combination of scare tactics, negative advertising and vague sweeteners – of controlling electorates through the free democratic vote and getting leaders installed who would otherwise be unelectable, because of the unpopularity of their philosophies and loyalties. Two, that the scions of the Moscow School of Higher Higher Economics are numpties who could not predict yesterday’s weather today, but who are accorded the respect and publication latitude of experts and elites because of their esoteric education. This is the group the west regularly argues must be appeased or the country will collapse and the floodgates will open, and Vladimir Putin will wake up tomorrow to an empty country.

        Except for a handful of honest malcontents who have a legitimate grievance and the professional protesters who don’t like anything, the politicians from point one and the academics from point two form the “constituency of a few thousand unpopular people” described in a leaked cable from the Moscow Embassy to the State Department, discussed here in excellent detail at Leos Tomicek’s blog.

  31. kievite says:

    Two, that the scions of the Moscow School of Higher Economics are numpties who could not predict yesterday’s weather today, but who are accorded the respect and publication latitude of experts and elites because of their esoteric education. This is the group the west regularly argues must be appeased or the country will collapse and the floodgates will open, and Vladimir Putin will wake up tomorrow to an empty country.

    In reality those pseudo-academics are highly paid prostitutes of financial oligarchy not that different from “valutnie prostitutki” phenomenon.

    But at the same time conversion from “industrial capitalism” to “casino capitalism” is the natural logic of development of capitalism. To the extent that replacement of industrial capitalism with financial capitalism was immanent the corruption of academic sector (not only economics) is a natural side effect of financial oligarchy coming to power and replacing old military-industrial complex elite. See http://www.softpanorama.org/Skeptics/Financial_skeptic/casino_capitalism.shtml

    Like Bolsheviks first understood for a successful coup you need to capture key infrastructure objects (bridges, telegraph, postal service etc), financial oligarchy understands that it need to capture the top academic positions in social sciences and first of all in economics. So installing corrupted stooges an top positions in economic schools and providing them with abundant financing to extinguish competition is an one of the most important part of this quite coup. Rich financial rewards attaract talented and unscrupulous people (Ostap Benders of academic jungles :-). And this capture was fully achieved both in the USA and Russia.

    Actually my feeling is that Navalny is more of a variation of Ostap Bender theme not so much on Mussolini theme or Dostoevski Stavrogin type (althouth analogy with Demons is a very good one). IMHO one of the key architects of conversion of Russian economic school into neo-classic desert was Yegor Gaidar one of “Chicago boys” — set of Ostap Bender style power-hungry figures who were too fascinated with teachings of Chicago school for thier own good.
    Free-market politicians, economists and media have pushed policies of de-regulation and pursuit of short-term profits, causing less growth, more inequality, more job insecurity and more frequent economic crises. And they are very well organized, forming a dangerous religious cult, masked as academic discipline. It’s not that different from Mormons and wahhabies.. Or probably more close analogy would be Trofim Lysenko school. And they should be treated as such: corruption is institualized and expected in neo-classical economics. Being a paid shill of financial oligarchy is the typical career path of professional neo-classical economist. Those people do not have a jota of honesty. The fact that there is no obligation to disclose sources of research make this prostitution problem unpalatable. Any disclosure of private funding sources by economists is strictly voluntary, and in practice seldom occurs. That means that researchers can be and are often funded by foreign governments or foreign business associations. Awards, foreign trips and scholarships is another well test corruption path (Soros was and still is a master of this game).

    All-in-all this is like cancer. And it might be too late as this cancer went too deep into the social body of Russia. If so Russia are doomed independently whether the current color revolution successes or not. It’s just a matter of time and nutrition (western money) for this cancer to kill the host.

    In any case it is important to understand that the dismantling of neo-classical economic schools that favor financial oligarchy interests (and prosecuting academic criminals — essentially academic fifth column) should probably be a priority task for healthy part of Russian elite, if such exists. It is dangerous and pretty difficult undertaking and I personally don’t see the real possibilities of this action (with friends like this, Putin needs no enemies). Can you imagine the level of cries about the suppression of freedom by Western press if Putin accidentally closes one of those fifth column institutions. Catching them in insider dealings would be better strategy but there is no political will to do this even to the most notorious NGO like Golos. So unfortunately neither Moscow School of Higher Economics nor the Institute for the Economy in Transition are even on the target list.

    In the USA those prostitutes of financial oligarchy dominate economic discource and the US society was essentially taken hostage by the ideological views of the Chicago economic school for approximately 50 years. It might be that collapse is the only think that can challenge thier dominance. Actually there is a good Anti-Romney clip that has a much wider meaning:


    • marknesop says:

      I’m hopeful that it’s not too late for Russia, because the influence of these supposed elites is weak and most people remain both suspicious of western influence and not particularly envious of it. A Good Treaty has a new post up on Navalny’s nationalistic side, and describes very comprehensively how impatient Navalny often is with questioners on the subject. However, as Kevin succinctly points out, the alleged “coalition” of “Navalny the Uniter” is tenuous at best, and it will be difficult to hold the nationalists if they don’t start hearing some commitments to achieving nationalist goals in Navalny’s speeches. That said, Navalny’s nationalist leanings are unlikely to bother policymakers in the west except insomuch as they prove to be a barrier to his eventual electability. Russia dropping support for the Caucasus would be a win/win for the west, whether they elected to become a western satellite or drifted into a hardline Islamic emirate. Either would prove a destabilizing influence to be turned against Russia.

      I can’t see Navalny as Ostap Bender in any way – Bender is a loveable rogue who, at bottom, means nobody any harm, and if he occasionally takes advantage of people they have only their own gullibility to blame. Besides, Navalny is positioning himself for much more ambitious aims than destroying upholstered furniture.

      • kievite says:

        I can’t see Navalny as Ostap Bender in any way – Bender is a loveable rogue who, at bottom, means nobody any harm, and if he occasionally takes advantage of people they have only their own gullibility to blame.

        I see your point. But I would like to stress that IMHO the driving force for Navalny is not some real or imaginable convictions, but possibility to milk somebody for hard currency. That is closer to Ostap althouth I agree that Navalny definitely lacks qualities of a “loveable rogue”. Still, in a sense, he tries to milk his own “millionaire Koreyko” (aka State Department). So he is an interesting type of rogue, a rogue who imitate absolute integrity and attacks corruption while under the table getting “as much green as possible”. And has the same drams about Rio de Janeiro where (after getting his million from Mr.Koreiko) he can walk in white pants and enjoy life ;-).

        Actually it looks like Maria Gaidar has exactly the same mentality too. In Russian it is called “Srubit’ zelenih i svalit’ ”

        In no way there are fanatics ready to die for an idea. That’s my main point.

        • yalensis says:

          I don’t know if I would say that Navalny is a “fanatic” or prepared to die for his ideas. That might be going too far. But I would not just write him off as a rogue, either. He is clearly a “revolutionary” and is aiming for power, not so much money. (I am sure he likes to have a lot of money in his pocket, but mostly as a means to gain power.) I think he has his eye on that top spot in the Kremlin and can imagine himself sitting in that chair. Kevin’s “Good Treaty” piece is very good, it clarifies that whole issue of different types of Russian nationalism and what they mean. Is becoming very clear that the North Caucasus region lies at the heart of this debate. Navalny obviously has a set of sincerely believed political views, which are part of his core personality, and include casting off the North Caucasus. This, along with his intelligence and dominant personality, may in fact have been what brought him to the attention of his American sponsors. They see in him (like a Russian version of Saakashvili) somebody that can be used to stab into the soft underbelly of the Russian Federation. One must never forget that the aim of the West is to form a radical Wahhabist Islamic emirate in those areas (Chechnya, Dagestan, Alania, etc.) which now enjoy the privileges of Russian citizenship. This would end up destroying Russia once and for all, turning it into a larger version of the Libyan wasteland, and giving West unfettered access to much-needed energy supplies in the Caspian area. No doubt they would reward Navalny by appointing him local satrap of the small “Muscovy” colony.

          • kievite says:

            Navalny obviously has a set of sincerely believed political views, which are part of his core personality, and include casting off the North Caucasus.

            Here I respectfully disagree. All I see in him is a complete fake and hypocrite oriented on extraction of hard currency one way or another along with burning desire to get into power position where such flows became automatic. Recently it was proved that his Raspil site is essentially a fake plus that this appeal for fundraising (and he raised more then 5 millions rubbles) is in a sense illegal as he has no legal standing in those cases. Is not this Ostap Bender style behavior with his immortal trick of selling tickets for those who wanted to see the cliff and pocketing the money?
            I watched again his Sakharov Sq speech and see only a guy who want to impress his Western handlers demonstrating his ability to excite the crowd. Look at his estimate on the number of protesters.

            In his interviews (looking critically without rose grasses) he comes out as pretty sleazy politician who is apt in exploiting the moment sentiments but say different things to different people. I think that already undermined his relationships with nationalists.

            His hysteric cries that “party of scoundrels and thieves” “plundered the whole country” is also quite insincere because first of all he is not against plunder if this is into his own pocket. And there are probed case of such behavior on his side. He also conveniently forgetting that most of treasures were stolen long before Putin by Yeltsin gang directed by the same handlers who now work with him.

            And actually analogy with Saakashvili is a good one but for a different reason. Here I definitely see the difference between Navalny and Ostap Bender as Navalny has this burning desire to get into high levels of power typical for sociopaths like Saakashvili. And enjoy fruits of the victory as Saakashvili did.

            I might be wrong but this is the way I see Navalny. And actually I would like to strres that this is the way I see Maria Gaidar too: kind of female incarnation of Navalny.

            • marknesop says:

              In this one, I’m going with kievite’s read on it. I don’t think Navalny – while I’m prepared to give him credit for core beliefs on corruption – is truly a zealot at all. He’s just the beneficiary of focused training in how to appeal to public discontent and how to whip up a crowd.

              Remember, when people are discontented, they seldom have a clear idea of what they are upset about. I think we’re all agreed, even the west grudgingly agrees, that the average Russian is far, far better off in 2012 than he or she was when Putin came to power. The state has become wealthy once again with huge currency reserves in the bank, but nowhere near all the money was banked; a good deal of it went into social and lifestyle betterment in the form of wage-scale and pension increases. Russia attracted several major international events such as the Olympics, the Formula One and World Cup, in the face of what must have been intense lobbying against Russia’s selection. So if people are grumbling, they certainly have little to grumble about in view of the general world situation, with the Eurozone trembling on the brink of implosion, the United Kingdom under fierce austerity restraints and the USA politically crippled by gridlock. So the man in the street isn’t really sure why he’s discontented. It might have nothing at all to do with the government, and everything to do – as I’ve mentioned before – with psychological models such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As people’s basic needs for food and shelter are met, they begin to crave safety and security. Needs for love and intimacy are seldom satisfied by politicians – although I don’t doubt they would be willing to accommodate those when one’s vote is critical – so we can move higher to where Russians actually are now; the need for self-actualization; to feel important and accomplished and that one is achieving one’s potential in society. The trouble is, the group that runs the show is actually very small and has its own secret countersigns. The line between the manipulators and the manipulated is thin, and despite his training in how to pander to this highest need, Navalny would do well to ask himself to which group he truly belongs. But meanwhile, his job is to shape and define amorphous public pique, and to put a face and a name to it. I don’t think you need too much political imagination to see who the owner of both that face and that name is. So far, he’s doing reasonably well at it.

              What must always be kept in mind is that the west absolutely does not want to see Russia become a thriving market democracy with a free and fair vote and wealthy, self-actualized citizens, whatever it might say in order to appear in sync with the protesters. Such a country might start thinking about being the dominant global power. Very, very late in the game the west is beginning to wake up to the scale of competitor China represents, although many have been pointing it out for years. The last thing it needs is another prosperous, powerful competitor unless that competitor can be used as a counterweight against China’s growing might, and I don’t believe any signs of potential in that respect are present. Therefore, the west sings its siren song of freedom and self-determination while it is focused on short-term destabilization and keeping an eye out for the main chance to put a spanner in the works that will bring the whole machine grinding to a halt. I’m not sure how important the Caucasus is in the long run, but it will certainly bear further watching. There’s a reason the west has thrown its backing to Navalny while dropping Boris Nemtsov like a hot rock, and it’s true the west advocates fiercely for Georgia because it would like one day to see oil pipelines cross it that do not depend on courting favour with either Russia or Iran. I have to imagine that the bigger the buffer zone around that pipeline route, the happier the west would be. Then Europe would find it had a new energy landlord ready to compete with Russia for business, and Russia would find its shaky, inefficient energy infrastructure a dragging weight that it does not feel now because it has no competition.

              If you would see how interested the west is in nation building once the dust and the shouting of the mob have died down and the protest “movement” has achieved the goal of removing an uncooperative or no-longer-useful leader the west did not want to remain in power, look at Egypt for an example.

              • yalensis says:

                @mark: Clarification: I do think that Navalny has “core beliefs”, but t do not believe his core beliefs have anything to do do with corruption; I think that was just a shtick that he stumbled into and turned into lucrative career. In that sense I agree with both you and @kievite that Navalny is a con man.
                However, I do believe that Navalny has “core beliefs” that involve his views on ethnicity and attitude towards the North Caucasus. He believes Caucasian republics are parasitic and suck the blood of white-skinned Russians. (Like some white Americans believe African-Americans are parasites who live on tax money extracted from white middle class.) In both cases this is false perception and counter to reality. However, opinions of ignorant and malicious people are formed from their prejudices, rather than from factual reality. Navanlny’s prejudice against Caucasians is core to his belief system, and this prejudice is convenient to his American handlers, for reasons that are well known and much discussed. (American plan for North Caucasus is to break these republics away from Russia and turn into Wahhabite emirate allied with NATO.)

                • Navalny undoubtedly is out for power and I am pretty sure that he is out for money as well. A crude rule of thumb I follow which has almost never led me astray is that people who complain loudest about corruption in others are almost invariably the most corrupt. in themselves. Having said this I think what Navalny wants most of all is not power or money but attention. His sort of narcissistic personality always has to be at the centre of attention. The episode of the photograph whoever faked it is a case in point. It is precisely Navalny’s need to be at the centre of attention which by the way explains why he has no colleagues or allies but only followers and why he refuses to join anyone else’s party but insists on forming his own.

                  I agree with Yalensis that he has got to where he has because of US support and funding. In a sense he is the latest project to replace the previous failed Kasparov and Nemtsov projects. Someone (possibly Navalny himself) has hit on the formula used with such success by Yeltsin in the 1980s: harp on corruption, present yourself as the courageous, persecuted enemy of the corrupt “bosses” and the ally of the oppressed “little fellow” and emphasise nationalism as much as possible to pander to the patriotism of your base. In the 1980s at a time when society was politically immature this formula worked. Today it has no chance of doing so since the population is immeasurably better informed and far more politically experienced and sophisticated than it was in the 1980s. On the contrary as Navalny gets more attention the contradictions will become more obvious and the flaws in his personality will become more visible. As I have said before I give him perhaps one year, two at most, before he burns himself out.

                  On the subject of the internet, this is obviously being used in a big way at the moment as a destabilisation tool as it is in other places but I suspect it will not be too long before a backlash develops.

                • marknesop says:

                  Hello, Alex; we must have been typing our comments at the same time, because I didn’t see yours until I submitted mine. I agree with much of what you’ve said here. I believe Navalny is out for money only insofar as he sees it as justifiable expenditure on the cause of his own greatness and advancement.

                • marknesop says:

                  Oh, I’d be prepared to believe Navalny was opposed to corruption; I don’t buy that he’s a Sarah-Palin-style grifter who is out to line his own pockets, and he probably does have some strong populist views. But you’re right that his nationalism and his advocacy against keeping the Caucasus in the Russian Federation do sound like core beliefs. And his evident sense of entitlement to a leadership role as well as his preening over being referred to as a “major opposition leader”, when he was just some blogger only a year ago who has no real political background or base, speak to a fairly large ego. Maybe you have to have a big ego to be interested in a political role; I couldn’t say.

                  This BBC story makes the fake photo issue a little more interesting. According to the report, Yustas confirms the photo was never circulated or copied, as you said. But somehow Navalny immediately published the original on his LiveJournal blog in order to prove the Yekaterinburg photo was a fake. So he must still have it. He could have loads of electronic copies, but why would he bother if it was a poor-quality photo useful only as a souvenir? Yustas speculates that the photo was stolen when Navalny’s email account was hacked. But whoever did it waited until now to introduce the photo? And “youth activists” wearing blue jackets with “Vladimir Putin” written on them were “observed handing out copies of the paper”? The Kremlin thieves stole a photo of which there was every reason to believe Navalny still had the original (since hacking an email account does not remove actual content from the account-holder’s account, merely allows another access to it) and then published it as a crude fake knowing the original was bound to turn up? Does that sound like the actions of people smart enough to run a country? Does the volunteers in jackets with “Vladimir Putin” on them sound to anyone else like someone trying just a little too hard to ensure only one conclusion could be drawn? Not even the vaunted girls of “Putin’s Army” wore clothing associating them with Putin – they wore their regular (brief and sexy) clothing. Have any other Putin volunteers been spotted wearing “Vladimir Putin” jackets? Not that I’ve heard. Just in case there is anyone in Russia so thick they were unable to make the connection, a note included with the “Special Edition” paper says it was compiled by Putin’s All-Russia Popular Front. So much for the theory that some over-ambitious local politico overstepped himself in his eagerness to help the Dear Leader.

                  As I mentioned before, the fake attack blamed on the Dirty-Trix-R-Us opposition is an old favourite of Rove’s. In addition to the incident featuring the use of crude flyers to attack his own candidate, Rove accused the Democrats of bugging his office in 1986, just prior to a crucial campaign debate. The FBI investigated, and determined the battery powering the bug that Rove obligingly produced was so small it would probably have to be changed every few hours. Even some Republican operatives concluded Rove had bugged his own office in order to smear the opposition.

                  Parallels between Rovian tactics and Navalny’s probable Reichstag PhotoShop fake are just speculation at this point. But such a tactic would probably take shape as a last-minute attack on Putin in the final couple of weeks before the presidential vote, after opinion polling had ceased in accordance with the law. It might take the form of a “discovery” of Putin’s secret wealth, stolen from the state, or perhaps a particularly dirty trick supposedly devised to undermine the opposition or rig the vote. That would be followed by a couple of days of intensive get-out-the-vote efforts, probably concentrating on social media to spread the word. Then the vote, before anyone has time to investigate the incident or issue that sparked the controversy. It would still be unlikely to stop Putin, but it might force a runoff. In that case, anything could happen.

  32. yalensis says:

    On the topic of Ekaterinburg (recall, this is the city where that Navalny fake-photo scandal originated);
    This story about a neurotic theater director is admittedly silly, I am bringing it only to illustrate a point.
    The story is about an artist named Nikolai Koliada, director of a local Ekaterinburg theater, by his own admission a highly emotional and nervous personality. Koliada is no stranger to the internet: he has been blogging and twittering for years. Part of his artistic process is to keep an online journal. He is currently in the process of producing Lermontov’s “Mascarade”, which is in the middle of rehearsals.
    A couple of week ago, the Putin election campaign set up a branch in Ekaterinburg. On January 10, the campaign published a list of 31 prominent supporters in this regional capital, which included Koliada’s name, along with other notable personalities such as musician Alexander Pantykin, businessman Ilya Borzenkov, circus director Anatoly Marchevsky, and Olympic champion Alexander Popov.
    Koliada sent out a Tweet announcing his support for the Putin campaign. He was instantaneously barraged with a storm of “hate tweets”, including personal attacks, which caused him to have a nervous breakdown and remove his Twitter account. (Although he points out that he still has 30 days to change his mind and restore his account.)
    Again, this is a fairly silly story and I would not read too much into it. The only point I want to make is that the Orange opposition dominates the Intertubes. At the drop of a hat they can marshal a huge Phantom Troll army to bully the “Putinists”, even some local personality whom nobody else had ever heard of. It also indicates that the Orangeoids must have a cadre of supporters in the Ekaterinburg area who monitor all forms of media. Recall how quickly they reacted to the fake-photo event, and I believe that was an actual physical newspaper, not an online one. The pro-Putin camp don’t have anything comparable to this in the waging of the propaganda war.

    • marknesop says:

      This interesting story continues to develop. I doubt it will be followed up to its conclusion; certainly not in the western press, where it will probably be encouraged to die away before it begins to experience diminishing returns. But I would not be a bit surprised to find the Navalny campaign, probably with the involvement of its western backers, behind it.

      The popular analysis has been to attribute Navalny’s phenomenal growth in stature in Russian politics (although he’s still a very small fish in a very big pond, bear in mind that only a year ago he was a virtual nobody blogger) to the teachings of Gene Sharp and the good regime change folks at OTPOR. However, I’m beginning to see more and more commonalities with strategies of western political strategists like Karl Rove and Lee Staples.

      Rove was quite well-known in recent years for a tactic strikingly similar to the photoshopped photo incident, in which he distributed crude, vicious flyers (according to one popular story attributed to Rove himself, thrown at night with both hands from the windows of a car while he was steering with his knees) that leveled ridiculous, offensive accusations against Rove’s client. This was blamed on the opposition, and Rove’s client (Harold See) won a race that only weeks before wasn’t even close. You can see a brief account of it here (skip ahead to 1996). Joshua Green of The Atlantic did a comprehensive story on Rove and his electioneering tactics in 2004, and if I am right and this is the model Navalny is using, Russia watchers should not get complacent about the long periods of relative inactivity between protest events. The Rovian model goes into overdrive in the last two weeks of a campaign, and the get-out-the-vote effort is labeled the “72-hour Task Force”. As the name implies, the effort reaches a crescendo in the final three days of the campaign, when polling has stopped and likely last indicated a far different picture. It is essentially a blitzkrieg attack, often based on a fabricated wedge issue or game-changing incident, designed to steer the undecided and change the minds of the uncommitted when they have no time left to question the allegations and the target has no time left to refute them.

      Lee Staples is the author of “Roots to Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing“. A review I read of of this book suggested, “Every ‘Change Agent’ should read this book”. While the author seems sincere in his offering of empowerment for the common man to change the circumstances of his life, the tactic has been adopted to coalesce around a faked incident or issue and appeal to people’s emotions when they are least capable of cold reason and analysis.

      • kievite says:


        I’m beginning to see more and more commonalities with strategies of western political strategists like Karl Rove and Lee Staples.

        I think this is one of the most important insights of this thread and it probably deserves a blog post of its own. False flag operations a la Rove are very effective. They also preempt revelation of dirty deals by Navalny (see his correspondence with Belkovsky) immunizing from such revelations before they can affect the client.

        But the issue is much wider. It really looks like an attempt to implement “Rovian model” (for brevity let’s call it “Rovism” ;-) .

        I would like to point out that along with false flag operations another favorite Rovism trick is using wedge issue as the tool to obtain and hold power. And IMHO in Navalny “Let’s stop feed Caucasus for free” slogan we can see an implementation of this trick. In Rovism the division is not an externality of particular policy; it is the purpose of the policy.

        As in any cult an important part of the message is the appeal to the “basic instincts” that might be not the best part of human’s psyche. Here slogan “Let’s stop feed Caucasus for free” fits the bill.

        Here is another interesting quote that demonstrates this trick in action:

        Stories of Rove’s ruthlessness are legion. Consider the South Carolina 2000 Presidential primary. The South Carolina Presidential primary in 2000 is a case in point. John McCain threatened to defeat George Bush, as he had in New Hampshire. Suddenly, as Ron Suskind describes it, “Bush loyalists began distributing parking-lot handouts and making telephone push polls”; and fomenting whisper campaigns that McCain had fathered a black baby by a prostitute, his wife was a drug addict, and that he had become unstable due to his years in a Vietnamese prison camp.

        The McCains had adopted a baby from a Mother Teresa orphanage in Bangladesh. “Bridget, now eleven years old, waved along with the rest of the McCain brood from stages across the state, a dark-skinned child inadvertently providing a photo op for slander.” McCain lost.

        Karl Rove’s despise and disregard for truth is self-evident and that makes similarities with a theocratic cult even stronger. Stubborn insistence that he “…doesn’t have to compromise with facts” if they don’t agree with the theory was the hallmark of Bolshevism as a political party. In way both deal with inconvenient facts by creating a new reality. If facts does not correspond the desirable line of policy, too bad for the facts.

        Here is very apt characterization of the essence of “Rovism” as a political strategy by Neal Gabler

        they are reconfiguring the system in extra-constitutional, theocratic terms.

        Theocratic nature of Rovism means that facts are not recognized as constraining forces. That also means that Navalny and friends should display “theocratic zealot determination”: such a person entertains no doubt, rejects any adjustment to their demands and demands an unconditional surrender as a precondition of any talks. “Duma elections were rigged” and United Russia is a “Party of scoundrels and thieves” are statements of faith and if you do not accept it you simply no longer belong to the sect.

        Another consequences of theocratic nature of Rovism is that it concentrates all the efforts on power grab via hijacking of elections disregarding any moral or ethical constrains in means of achieving this goal. By generating visceral hatred toward the enemy dehumanization of the opponent is achieved with 100% reliability. This way fearless leader absolves the foot solders of any restrains so that they can commit any crimes as long as their actions are helping to grab the power for the cult.

        This obsessive preoccupation of power grab as end in itself is why John DiIulio, former Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives called Rove & friends “Mayberry Machiavellis”. He wrote about Karl Rove:

        … no one will speak candidly about him or take him on or contradict him. Pure power, no real accountability.

        This gave rise to what you might call Mayberry Machiavellis — staff, senior and junior, who consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption, then steering legislative initiatives or policy proposals as far right as possible. These folks have their predecessors in previous administrations (left and right, Democrat and Republican), but, in the Bush administration, they were particularly unfettered.
        Read more: http://www.esquire.com/features/dilulio#ixzz1jTVEYzSy

        Similarly former Bush Treasury secretary Paul H. O’Neill characterized Rove strategy as “putting politics before sound policy judgments”.. They care more about partisan victories than about governing well and have little of not concerns about integrity and prosperity of Russia. The chief concern is partisan success, regardless of the good of the country or the world. In deep sense of the word they (like Cheney-Bush administration was) are jihadis ,

        The image of a “supreme religious leader”, tough guy, fearless fighter with corruption is also important and it looks like this is the image Navalny tries to project despite being in my opinion Ostap Bender style of personality. This image of “fearless leader” is closely related to cult followers mindset in which toughness of the leader and loyalty are key virtue that ensure the sect survival in hostile world ( http://articles.latimes.com/2004/oct/24/opinion/op-gabler24/2 ) :

        The mere appearance of change [of opinion] is intolerable, which is why Bush apparently can’t admit ever making a mistake. As Machiavelli put it, the prince must show that “his judgments are irrevocable.”
        … … …
        Boiled down, Rovism is government by jihadis in the grip of unshakable self-righteousness“.

        The view on Navalny and his followers as neo-liberal jihadis is really terrifying, and should give everyone a pause.

  33. kievite says:

    Analysis of hacked Navalny’s emails


    • yalensis says:

      Great link, @kievite. But could you explain the context? What is this Navalny “correspondence” that they are talking about, and who obtained access to it?

      • kievite says:

        Don’t know much but there is a lot of “context” info in the links below.


        Here Navalny is judged very similar to previous post:
        Как вы относитесь в антикоррупционной деятельности Навального?
        — Я считаю, что вся его т.н. «деятельность» — это чистой воды профанация. Такие бесполезные горлопаны как он — они нужны любой системе, чтобы выпускать пар через гудок. Ну вот покричал он в интернетах, собрал таких же шалопаев и бездельников вокруг себя, поводил их по кругу, они ему дали денег, он на них съездил отдохнуть в Испанию, потом вернулся, сходил в американское посольство, там ему сказали, как и кого надо мочить, он выполнил — ему выписали грант.
        Нужно понимать, что Навальный — это современный Остап Бендер, ведь он ничего не делает вообще, он много шумит, устраивает какие-то унылые акции, призывает дурачков в сети бороться с «ворами и жуликами». Но все воры и жулики не страдают от этого абсолютно, сам он получает возможность хорошо жить (при этом ничего вообще не делая), а коррупция как была — так и остается. С такими, как этот проходимец, коррупцию нельзя искоренить, он сам насквозь коррумпирован, это видно даже из небольшой части опубликованных писем, он лжец — и это тоже все видели недавно, поэтому такому человеку верить нельзя.







        Почему Навальный готовит «русскую зиму»



        Additional links are at http://www.besttoday.ru/subjects/823.html

        • yalensis says:

          Thanks @kievite.

        • yalensis says:

          @kievite: One of the links you provided helps explain the “fake photo” episode that we have been discussing above. Apparently, according to the material you have provided, back in October a hacker calling himself “Hell” hacked into Navalny’s e-mail account and published e-mail of Navalny and his wife onto a site set up for the purpose, called “Nava-leaks”. Navalny’s e-mail correspondence included the photo of himself with Prokhorov, with was used as the basis, 2 months later, for the Ekaterinburg gazette fake. So, anyone could have obtained the photo from the “Nava-leaks” site, which, by the way does not seem to exist any more, because I get a “page not found” error. The link you gave that contains the photo in question (you have to scroll about 2/3 down) is:


          Conclusion: anyone with internet access could have accessed the Navalny-Prokhorov photo while the “Nava-leaks” site was still active, photoshopped it to replace Prokhorov with Berezovsky, then sent or e-mailed the faked photo to the Ekaterinburg paper. It could have been an inept Putin supporter, or it could have been a clever Navalny supporter setting up a double-bluff. Hard to say which is more plausible. But we no longer have to speculate about how the photo was obtained or suspect the photographer Yustas: clearly Navalny disseminated the photo himself in one of his e-mails, and then that e-mail was hacked and published.

          • yalensis says:

            Sorry, I just gave the wrong link, the one with the original Prokhorov-Navalny photo is:


            and you only scroll down about 1/3 of the way down to see it.

          • marknesop says:

            Once again; Navalny’s account was hacked almost 4 months ago, and the Kremlin is just now getting around to pushing out the fake photo? Because Navalny immediately jumped on the culprits being the Kremlin. Boy, they must suck at PhotoShop if they’ve been at it all this time and the best they could come up with is a photo in which a guy nearly 7 feet tall – shown cut off just below his ribs – is cropped out and replaced with a guy a foot shorter, but who is shown from the waist up. And if they wanted to preserve the atmosphere of anonymity, it looks kind of stupid in hindsight to have been passing out copies while wearing a jacket reading “Vladimir Putin” across the back, not to mention advertising the issue as having been compiled by Putin’s All-Russia Popular Front. I can see why Navalny might suspect the Kremlin, can’t you?

            It would be silly of Navalny to obtain a promise from Yustas not to circulate the photo, and then circulate it himself. But if he had been looking to set up a Karl Rove-style smear against himself, the photo might have been the catalyst. Then the instruction to not publish the photo would make sense, because it would suggest its provenance must be seen to be untarnished.

            • Dear Mark,

              I am sure the photo was not faked by the Kremlin. As I’ve said previously what would be the sense of faking the photo in this inept way and then burying the fake in some provincial newspaper in far off Yekaterinburg that is so obscure that there is difficulty even finding out its name?

              Thanks to the indefatigable work of Kievite and Yalensis we now know that the photo was stolen when someone hacked into Navalny’s email account. This suggests the photo was faked by an idiot rather than by a Navalny supporter as part of some provocation tactic.

              • marknesop says:

                I wouldn’t go that far; I agree the hacking of Navalny’s email account does provide a plausible avenue for some unknown person’s getting hold of it, but I still believe the Navalny “campaign” (difficult to call it that, since he isn’t running for anything but attention) is behind the faked photo. The overdone connections with the Kremlin – the jackets labeled “Vladimir Putin”, the note in the paper claiming the issue was compiled by Putin’s All-Russia Popular Front, all strongly suggest somebody trying to make a point for which the photo itself is only the trigger, and that point is that Navalny is a big wheel in the Russian political machine and the Kremlin is deeply afraid of him. That’s why they try to turn off his supporters with fakery to make them believe their hero is an oligarch-loving phony. Then all Navalny need do is make some appropriately amused comment (“the Kremlin is bad at the internet”) which simultaneously blames frightened, shaken Kremlin ideologues and casts Navalny himself as a thoroughly modern man with answers, and presto! The Kremlin stinks, and Navalny comes out of it smelling like a rose. I’m sure no clumsy Putin well-wisher had anything to do with it – if the aim was to smear Navalny with what only a complete fool would think could deceive anyone, why the elaborate efforts to put as many pointers to the Kremlin as possible into the scenario? There was no effort at all to be anonymous; quite the opposite. And since the emails themselves were leaked immediately, why save the photo until now? It’s not like it took such a long time to retouch it; that could have been done in a half-hour.

                But the real giveaway is the timely response of the western press. The name of the publishing paper is still not known except by the efforts of bloggers from the region; it’s apparently not germane to the message. Navalny is, or was at the time, on vacation in Mexico – presumably not with a huge press staff and hot links to a battery of western newspapers. Yet virtually every major newswire picked up the story instantly and simultaneously, and all were singing from the Navalny song sheet. It stands to reason they got the story from him, or his “staff”. If he was so lowbrow and casual about it; ha, ha, this means nothing, just the Kremlin monkeys up to their usual amusing tricks – why did he make sure all the western papers knew about it? It’s not like they all follow his blog or anything, I didn’t read in the New York Times that he was on vacation in Mexico until it was part of the photo story. It’s not as if they hang out around him, waiting for news. This is just like Browder’s “Hermitage Effect”; use the tattletale western press to spread the message.

                Speaking of Browder; I wonder if he has dark-horse money on Navalny? He surely does hate Putin (now), and has plenty of incentive to do whatever he can to stop him being President.

                • yalensis says:

                  Well, to play devil’s advocate: the fact that Navalny was in Mexico at the time means nothing. His laptop is surgically attached to him, and he is in contact with his Twitter followers 24/7. They alert him that something happened, he alerts Western press, it all happens in seconds, while he is still in his pajamas and before he has even had his first cup of coffee. As Navalny himself brags, he is “wery good at internet”.
                  BTW, Navalny seems to have an interesting habit of vacationing in Spanish-language countries during crisis moments. For example, he happened to be “vacationing” in Spain when his personal e-mail account was hacked by “Hell”. Coincidence? Perhaps… Or perhaps Navalny’s CIA handler, for reasons of security, likes to meet Navalny in some third country (neither Russia nor America), and maybe the handler is Hispanic-American, hence fluent in Spanish, and easier for him to setup local security and accommodations for his guy. I have not read anything that indicates Navalny himself speaks Spanish. He speaks some English, but is not fluent, so his handler would also have to be fluent in Russian.

                • marknesop says:

                  Yes, I realize his physical location doesn’t matter much, and it’s a good point that he could light up the whole world via his laptop, although I meant that more from the perspective of optics – see? It couldn’t have been me, I wasn’t even in the country.

                  I believe someone else probably did hack his email account, and I doubt that was a false-flag setup because it actually did reveal some fairly damaging stuff, although it’s irrelevant to his adoring hamsters and those who think he is the second coming of Liberal Jesus. That seems to be all the rage this winter if you’re an aspiring liberal; let’s not forget Boris Nemtsov’s phone was tapped, and that, too, “backfired on the Kremlin” with oceans more love and sympathy for Boris.

                  But I still think Navalny and his hamsters set up that fake photo. The enthusiastic and rapid response of the western press, the heavy-handedly obvious pointers to Putin, all smell to high heaven of a doctored and goal-oriented political event designed to fix an impression. Besides, the people must be kept stirred up somehow; it’s a long time until the beginning of February in political terms, and Navalny and the organizers are hoping for nearly ten times the turnout of the last one. With his mathematics, that should be easy; any more than ten will be a million.

                  I doubt he actually rates his own handler yet; after all, he can’t run as a candidate in anything (although he won “virtual Mayor of St Petersburg” via internet votes sometime back, if memory serves). At present he would be just as valuable to the west dead as alive; if he were bumped off, naturally Putin would have personally ordered him killed because he was such a triple threat to his kingdom. All the west cares about now is destabilizing Putin – they don’t really have a serious hope of replacing him, because there is no irresistible alternative. So anything that would render the country ungovernable (a time-tested western recipe) would serve, and a dead Navalny flaming out like a supernova a la Jimmy Hendrix, when it’s still not apparent what he might have been because he has yet to disappoint everyone, would serve very well.

                  Maybe he chooses Spanish-speaking countries because they’re a travel bargain right now; Mexico has always been a great low-budget vacation, and Spain’s scary debt levels probably make them take whatever they can get. The Spanish-speaking CIA agent theory is cool, and hey, you never know. But I don’t think Navalny has taken on the mantle of politically indispensable just yet. That’s not to say he’s not receiving western financial backing – I’m sure he is, but it’d all be indirect through NGO’s and the like. Navalny is nowhere near the big noise he thinks he is (check out sometime, of all sources, La Russophobe if you want to see scathing putdowns of Navalny’s big-frog-in-a-little-pond rock star posturing) at present, and that owes much to his deifying in the western press. If he’s still around in 5 years, maybe.

                • marknesop says:

                  Maybe Navalny is just a slightly-disguised Leonid Agutin. They do look somewhat alike, and although Agutin is a bit older, makeup could cover that. Here’s the clincher: nobody has ever seen them in public together, and Agutin speaks functional Spanish, fluent Russian and English.

                  I hope not. I like Agutin in spite of his weakness for beach-ball-breasted, slightly dim women. Or perhaps because of it.

  34. yalensis says:

    I saw this piece by Russian pundit Alexander Nikitich Sevastianov. Sevastianov’s piece is a critique of a piece by Andrei Illarionov (former advisor to Putin, who is now a leader of the liberast opposition). Illarionov is naturally upset by recent cadre changes (forced resignation of Kudrin, promotions of Sergei Naryshkin, Sergei Ivanov, Dmitry Rogozin, etc.)
    “Putin inherited from Yeltsin a system standing on two feet: the patriot-siloviki and the system-liberals (the major supporting component of the system of government and the whole ideology of contemporary Russia.”
    Typical sys-liberals are Gaidar, Chubais and so on.
    “At the end of the 1980’s these two forces took power together, as a pair, in tandem. But then proceed to compete with each other [for power] for many years…. In the 2000’s the special-forces type gained strength and started to push the sys-liberals out of power.”
    This process culminated last year with Kudrin’s forced resignation (from Ministry of Finance) and the other cadre changes, including the promotion of Rogozin.
    Hence, Sevastianov reads the current ferment as the revanchist attempt of those cadres who once had power and then lost it (were pushed aside). He names Illarionov, Kudrin, Kasianov and Nemtsov as typical of this caste who were once in power and then lost power, and are at the center of the recent oppositionist ferment.
    All of this is well know, but the most interesting part of Sevastianov’s piece is his analysis of the true stakes involved, i.e., Putin’s plan for a sharp course change as soon as he returns to power. Putin’s plan includes the following elements:

    Путин на тропе войны с сислибами
    В последнее время мы стали свидетелями действий Путина, свидетельствующих как о резкой смене курса, так и об отчаянной смелости премьер-министра. Которая может стоить ему головы.
    Я имею в виду три решения, задевающие жизненные интересы обширных и могущественных слоев т. н. элиты российского общества. Людей неслабых, современных бояр. Все эти решения давно назрели, если не перезрели, но принять их накануне собственных выборов – это очень сильный ход очень сильного, уверенного в себе игрока.

    “We have recently become witness to certain actions of Putin which indicate a sharp change of course, as well as his (Putin’s) amazing boldness. (Because) this might cost him his head. I have in mind three plans which touch the vital interests of broad and powerful segments of the so-called elite of Russian society. The interests of powerful people, contemporary boyars. These plans (of Putin) have been hatching for a long time, and are in fact overdue, however to (announce) them on the eve of his own election – this is a very bold move of a very strong and confident player.”
    Sevastianov goes on to list Putin “three big plans” which may cost him his head:
    (1) Declaration of war against the off-shores.
    (2) Settling the matter of the “daughter companies”, i.e., the privatized energy company system developed by Chubais.
    (3) Appointment of Rogozin

    Началось! Перед нами три капитальные основы национальной революции «сверху». Важнейшие моменты, не только обозначившие долгожданный разворот от либеральных реформ к развитию национальной экономики, но определяющие также и вектор внутренней политики. Правильный, на мой взгляд, вектор.

    “And so it beins! Before us are the 3 major foundations of a national revolution “from above”…..
    Sevastianov approves of Putin planned “vector” and makes the point that this is a radical change, a revolution from above. He is worried that Putin has taken a huge risk, the die is cast, he has crossed the Rubicon, and there is no going back:

    отступать некуда: позади Гаага, в самом лучшем случае. Ему уже никогда не простят всего сделанного по укреплению российского суверенитета. А скорее всего – просто убьют тем или иным способом, если он ослабнет. У тех же Гусинского, Березовского, Ходорковского и мн. др. на это средств хватит, скинутся, если что.
    “There is no where to retreat: behind him is the Hague, in the best case. He (Putin) will not be forgiven the things he has done to strengthen Russian sovereignty. More than likely he will be assassinated….”
    Wow! This is very dramatically stated, but I have no doubt that Sevastianov is right about the stakes involved. Even if Putin is not physically assassinated, he is subject to daily character assassinations in the Western press, all you have to do is look at INOSMI every day to see the barrage of articles attacking Putin. He is richest guy in world, thief, super-corrupt billionaire, etc.
    BTW, these same charges were levelled against Gaddafi in Western propaganda media whilst Western armies were busy attempting to assassinate Gaddafi. The Libyan leader was accused of stealing billions from Libyan treasury and stashing away in Western banks. None of these charges turned out to be true. Oh, to be sure, Gaddafi was no ascetic monk, he took very good care of himself and his family (same as Putin, I have no doubt). But, by the same token, all the billions stashed away in foreign banks turned out to be Libyan sovereign funds, belonging to the entire Libyan state, not to Gaddafi personally. So, the Western media lied their little guts out. Surprise surprise!
    In conclusion, the charges of financial corruption against Putin should be taken with the same grain of salt, and in the spirit of the ongoing war, with its very high stakes, as laid out by Sevastianov. Western media has discovered that charges of corruption are a powerful propaganda device and find resonance in broad masses. Also a charge that most politicians are vulnerable to, because no politician in the history of the world (with the one exception of the “Incorruptible Robespierre”) has ever turned down a free dollar.
    Final note: the next battle in this war is supposed to take place on February 4, this is the next demonstration. Will have to wait and see if Opposition has any momentum. Navalny has promised to bring one million peoples out onto the streets. Navalny’s initial, tactical goal is to prevent Putin from winning the first round by clear majority, and have to submit to run-off round. To accomplish this goal, Sevastianov is worried that Navalnyites will provoke violence and turn into Bloody Sunday.

    • marknesop says:

      Sevastianov makes me laugh. Such drama! “There is no where to retreat: behind him is the Hague, in the best case”. For what? What has Putin done in the interests of “strengthening Russian sovereignty” that would land him in the dock at the Hague? You kind of have to commit a crime first, is my understanding. Accusers wouldn’t get much mileage out of charging Putin with deliberately driving up world oil prices (although I have seen that very accusation) in order to profit from the increase when the west starts a new revolution every six months, usually in an oil-rich country, and can’t leave Iran alone. Newscasters are forever reminding us how much of the world’s oil supplies pass through the Straits of Hormuz.

      Otherwise, I like his style, and we’re in agreement on Putin’s boldness if not necessarily on the pillars of his alleged new strategy. I’d be a little disappointed if he didn’t make the west pay a price for its constant inveigling against him this past year.

      But I can’t get behind the suggestion that Kudrin was a victim of “forced resignation”. He refused, on American TV, to work under Medvedev – what did he expect would follow from that? That Medvedev would resign in humiliation? Good luck with that. And now he has poisoned the well by throwing in his lot with the protesters, who plainly are not thrilled to have him; how have the mighty fallen. Likewise the suggestion that the “system-liberals” constitute the whole of the ideology of contemporary Russia.

      It’s not clear to me in the narrative which is talking; Sevastianov critiquing Illarionov, or Illarionov himself. If Sevastianov is making fun of Illarionov for these lofty ideals of the pervasiveness of liberal influence, then I agree. But I can’t see Putin cooling his heels in a cell waiting to go before the international court when he hasn’t broken any laws, and any country planning an assassination would be wise to think again – you wouldn’t get away with that one for free, it wouldn’t be like bumping off nuclear scientists in Iran.

      I agree, though, that Navalny would be very likely to agitate for violence in order to accomplish his goals. I don’t really think there will be any kind of Rovian push against Putin this time, because a key ingredient is missing – a credible leadership alternative to push the electorate toward. Navalny cannot stand for election this time, and he’d be foolish to land himself in prison for inciting a riot when he can’t be a martyr to anyone but a couple of dozen hipsters. But Navalny appears to have an irrational streak and an eagerness for combat to go along with his ego. Not a good combination.

      • Dear Yalensis,

        This is interesting but I wonder whether what Sevastianov says is true? Like Mark I do not see Kudrin’s resignation as forced and Putin has shown little interest up to now in attacking the “daughter companies”. Given that doing so would probably be popular why if he is plannng it would he not announce it and make it part of his election platform? That way he would be able to wrongfoot the opposition by painting it as defenders of the corrupt privatisations and of the oligarchs.

        • yalensis says:

          You’re right, Sevastianov makes it sound like Putin has just performed a big tap dance with his “tripartite platform” and thrown down the gauntlet to the oligarchs. But I have not seen any other pieces laying out this platform anywhere, so I do not know where Sevastianov is getting it from. I hope it is true, because it sounds like a great platform, but I am not sure. I do believe that Kudrin was forced out. In the sense that he made a huge misstep and ended up almost firing himself. You see this happening in the workplace sometimes: a malcontented employee throws a big tantrum and storms out, then can’t go back, and complains bitterly that he was fired.

          • Dear Yalensis,

            Forgive me, you are dead right about Kudrin. Actually what happened was that Kudrin did not resign but was sacked, but is going around telling everybody that he resigned instead of being sacked. It is the mirror of what Yeltsin did in 1987 when he resigned as head of the Moscow party organisation but went around telling everybody he’d been sacked when in fact he’d resigned.

            • marknesop says:

              Well, that’s not exactly the version I heard, although I wasn’t there at the time and I merely read what the press reported. I read that Kudrin had declared in no uncertain terms, in a for-publication interview, that he would not work with Medvedev if the latter were in the position of Prime Minister. Speculation was that Kudrin believed he was in line for that chair himself. In any case, Medevedev – still president – asked for his resignation, which was duly tendered, but it was not really a request. So I guess there’s a little something for each camp; the he-was-sacked and the he-quit. He did quit, but he was ordered to resign.

              For what it’s worth, the Moscow News saw it exactly like that. Kudrin lost his temper and said some things he couldn’t take back, not least because they were immediately broadcast far and wide by gleeful western reform advocates who interpreted it as a line in the sand for Putin’s government. Kudrin promptly made it worse by threatening Medvedev, “I’m telling Putin”. What could Medvedev do after that? “Please don’t!! Please don’t tell!!”? Hardly. He said, “Make up your mind, but somebody else’s wife and kiddies pictures are going to be in a lucite cube on your desk tomorrow”. So he resigned, but under conditions imposed by Kudrin and none other that made it impossible for him to be allowed to remain in his position. And he disagreed with Medvedev on spending money for defense. Anybody think Russia doesn’t need to upgrade its defenses?

      • yalensis says:

        I don’t believe Sevastianov is being overly paranoid. For years Putin’s enemies have been threatening to try him as a war criminal (for Chechnya). Also, some in British government are currently threatening to declare Putin persona non grata (because, якобы, he poisoned LItvinenko and tortured Magnitsky to death) and forbid him entry to London for the summer Olympics opening ceremonies. Given that level of hostility, it is not excessively paranoid to imagine Putin sitting in the Hague. Of course, to get Putin TO the Hague would take a war and somewhat more sophisticated planning than that exhibited by those hapless Polish soldiers whom Ivan Susanin led into the marshes, when they were trying to get their hands on Mikhail Romanov.

        • marknesop says:

          Ha, ha!! Chechnya???? The west wants to put Putin on trial for Chechnya??? While steadfastly ignoring suggestions George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are war criminals because they are directly responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 innocent Iraqis killed in a war of choice for which they have admitted they made up the precursor in order to get a coalition together and get the armor rolling?

          If anyone from the west with a plan to try Putin as a war criminal were to walk around wearing a T-Shirt that screamed in red letters, “Look Here!!! I’m a Hypocrite!!!” they couldn’t look more like a hypocrite.

        • marknesop says:

          Let’s just give Britain some friendly advice on making a big noise about Vladimir Putin, shall we? Shut up.

          Once upon a time, Britain was self-sufficient for natural gas, which drives everything in the UK from cooking to home heating; could even export some of its gas to Europe thanks to the bountiful supplies drawn from North Sea deposits. Well, lads; all good things come to an end. The North Sea reserves began to dry up way back in 2004, and at that time the industry counseled – with respect to major suppliers Russia and Algeria – “Clearly the political policies of these nations and developing relationships between the UK and them will be increasingly important”.

          Britain is looking down the barrel of importing 75% of its annual natural gas consumption by 2015. The linked article specifies Norway, Trinidad and Qatar as suppliers. The UK is linked to only one of those countries via pipeline, and that pipeline supplies only 20% of its needs. Drawing on my crumbling math skills, I make that out to be still 55% of Britain’s outstanding demand that cannot be satisfied by domestic supplies, which depends on countries that are far, far away and which must transfer their energy support by ship.

          Given those realities, it seems to me that deliberately and gratuitously insulting the probable future President of the world’s largest energy supplier out of personal dislike and a knee-jerk desire to please the USA looks a bit childish, not to mention foolhardy. Just saying.

          • I am afraid here I agree with Yalensis. If Putin were overthrown in circumstances that made his trial possible his arraignment before a court is by no means an impossibility. As for the allegation of war crimes I can distinctly recall watching a British television documentary made in 2000 just before Putin was first elected President which on the strength of what happened in the Second Chechen War accused Putin of just that. I remember being astounded by the hysterical language of the documentary and in particular by an incident when the broadcaster who was filming in a Chechen village was counting the war crimes he said Putin had committed.

            Having said this I want to make it very clear that I do not think any of this will happen. First I do not expect Putin to be overthrown though he could conceivably one day lose an election. If he loses an election I do not believe that whoever replaces him would willlingly consider his referral to the Hague or anywhere else. The political consequences in Russia of doing such a thing would be catastrophic for whoever did them. Russia cannot be bullied in the way Serbia was and any western attempt to do so would surely be completely counterproductive. In other words whilst the wish might be there the possibility in practical terms does not exist,

  35. kievite says:

    For those who don’t read Russin here is a useful link about Navalny-Belkovsky connection:


    • Dear Kievite,

      Thank you for this, It is all very helpful.

      I suspect that release of this sort of material is happening at the moment too early in Navalny’s career to do him much damage. However with the passage of time the damage will increase.

      What will ultimately discredit Navalny is that he is so obviously personally ambitious and has such a strong personal agenda. Compare him for example to Max Keiser of RT’s Keiser Report. Though I don’t follow his programme I gather that Max Keiser uses it to expose various malpractices and corruptions on Wall Street, which seems to me to bear some similarity to the kind of anti corruption muckracking Navalny gets up to. Max Keiser moreover does this whilst appearing openly on a Russian governnment funded television channel. He has nonetheless apparently achieved a large following (I am constantly surprised by the sort of people I meet who watch the programme) in part surely because no one thinks he is out for himself. If Max Keiser was however leading a political movement and aimed to make himself President people would view him very differently. Similarly the more obvious Navalny’s agenda becomes the more critical people will become of him.

  36. kievite says:

    Compare him for example to Max Keiser of RT’s Keiser Report.

    Please don’t kill my Ostap Bender (aka “Great Combinator”) analogy :-).

  37. kievite says:

    IMHO thinking about “Rovism” as introduction of cult methods into election politics can be pretty productive line of analyses of Navalny evolution. For example, it often looks that Navalny is a sociopath. As such he is perfectly suitable for the role of cult leader. Extreme denigration of existing government and personally Putin is another phenomenon that resemble cult-style methods and behavior.

    Here is a long but quite relevant quote from http://www.hgi.org.uk/archive/cults.htm

    A CULT is most commonly thought of as a religious or utopian group with a charismatic leader, though not all cult leaders are charismatic. Such groups can do a lot of damage causing anything from the breaking up of families to horrific acts of ritual murder, mass suicide and terrorist acts (Jonestown … Waco … 9/11). …cult behaviour is only a slightly more extreme form of the normal cultural behaviour that we are steeped in from childhood — for example, peer group pressure to conform.

    Deikman noted that the desires that bring people to cults — including the need to feel secure and protected — are universal human longings (as we would say, human givens). Their effect in our daily lives can be shockingly similar to the effect they have within the most bizarre cults, propelling people to take self destructive paths toward the security they seek, to fail to think realistically, suppress healthy dissent and autonomy, devalue outsiders and accept authoritarianism.

    Deikman’s message is an urgent one, because he sees these pervasive patterns throughout society as threats to our freedom. As he says in the preface to his book, “The price of cult behaviour is diminished realism.”

    Why people join cults

    “Cults form and thrive,” says Deikman, “not because people are crazy, but because they have two kinds of wishes. They want a meaningful life, to serve God or humanity; and they want to be taken care of, to feel protected and secure, to find a home. The first motives may be laudable and constructive, but the latter exert a corrupting effect, enabling cult leaders to elicit behaviour directly opposite to the idealistic vision with which members entered the group.

    “Usually, in psychiatry and psychology, the wish to be taken care of (to find a home, a parent) is called dependency and this is a rather damning label when applied to adults. Adults are not supposed to be dependent in that way, relying on another as a child would rely on a mother or father. We are supposed to be autonomous, self-sustaining, with the capacity to go it alone. We do recognise that adults need each other for emotional support, for giving and receiving affection, for validation; that is acceptable and sanctioned. But underlying such mature interdependency is the longing of the child, a yearning that is never completely outgrown. This covert dependency — the wish to have parents and the parallel wish to be loved, admired and sheltered by one’s group — continues throughout life in everyone. These wishes generate a hidden fantasy or dream that can transform a leader into a strong, wise, protective parent and a group into a close, accepting family. Within that dream we feel secure.”

    Cults and culture

    Cults are a mirror in which we can see, more clearly focused, aspects of the wider culture — the process by which the norms, values, ideas and shared perceptions of a society are passed down from generation to generation. In conforming we become ‘cultured’. There are practical advantages in conforming and certain disadvantages in not doing so. No group or country is one static culture but a special mix of interrelating lesser cultures. The streetwise homeless in Britain today, for example, have a different ‘culture’ from a British farmer, accountant or a nurse. At the same time, however, all British people share in something that is distinctive and different from, say, a South American, African or Middle Eastern culture. In other words, each country’s mix has a distinct ‘flavour’.
    How do cults work?

    The four factors that Deikman cites as characteristic of cult phenomena are:

    • compliance with the group
    • dependence on a leader
    • avoidance of dissent
    • devaluation of outsiders.

    Compliance with the group

    Most of us probably think that, unlike members of cults, we think for ourselves and act on our own volition. This is in fact far from the case. Not only does much of our behaviour derive from (post hypnotic) conditioning, but as social beings we easily become subject to automatic group behaviour.

    Group behaviour pattern is established very early on — in the family. …As adults, much more than we usually realise, we still depend on leaders — parent figures — to look after us and take decisions. The excuse, “I was only following-orders!” is the adult equivalent of “Mummy told me to do it”. (Social psychologist Stanley Milgram famously showed in his experiments on obedience that, when we obey authority, we do not see ourselves as responsible for our actions, however cruel.)

    This basic pattern of group behaviour is found all round the world – in many other animals as well as us — and it arose out of the survival value of living in packs and herds. In earlier times people cast out of the pack/herd/tribe would die quickly — eaten by predators. Survival chances were much higher as a member of a group that could act collectively for protection. So ‘don’t be an outsider’ is an instruction from our genes and that’s why, whatever environment we find ourselves in, we learn what behaviour is expected of us by imitating others and adhere to this approach most of the time.

    The enormous power of the group is evidenced in the fact that, if we witness a mugging or attack in the streets, we are more likely to help if we witness it alone rather than in a crowd or group. Many studies have shown this. It happens because, if others are around, we look to others for cues on how to behave. As undeveloped people, unless trained otherwise, we resort to the primitive pattern of looking for someone else to take responsibility. At an earlier stage in human evolution this was probably a useful tactic because a tribe or group cannot enlist cooperation and operate in unity unless there is a good measure of agreement within it.

    But there are clearly times when this is inappropriate behaviour and leadership is sought. Leaders are people who can detach themselves enough from the group to be able to make choices based on their individual judgement. They then can point the way but, to get everyone going, they have to exploit group behaviour. Their motivation for doing this may be selfish, altruistic or a mixture of both.

    Individuals may benefit from group protection when they join a cult — and there is evidence that many people are ‘saner’, safer and cause society fewer problems inside a cult than out — but there is a price to pay. Not least that they restrict their potential to become independent human beings. Group members become embarrassed by individualistic views, which might bring change and progress. However, this tendency is not restricted to conventional cults.

    All traditional religions, which most of us still don’t think of as cults, show the cult-like tendencies of idolising leaders and preventing independent thought. When in the third century, for example, Christianity became cult-like, some of its followers rampaged around the Mediterranean destroying the great classical libraries, actively suppressing learning and scientific endeavour wherever they found it. The effect was to plunge Europe into what became known as the Dark Ages, holding back human development here for hundreds of years. This is not, of course, how Christians today like to have their history regarded, but it is hard to refute. The rise of communism and fascism were major 20th century examples of cult-like behaviour that grew to such an extent that they had a disastrous impact on human progress.

    In a group no one wants to be seen as the ‘bad guy’ who has individual thoughts that challenge the rightness of the group, and this is a big danger. Cult-like behaviour, wherever it is found, leads to, and traps people in, unrealistic, inflexible thinking.

    Dependence on a leader

    Cult leaders demand loyalty and suppress criticism. For them, power must be absolute. Authoritarianism takes precedence over anything else. They often claim that ‘special’ knowledge, secret ancient doctrines or divine revelation is guiding them.

    Here again we can see how this developed out of a natural process that began in the family and the tribe.
    … … …

    Dependence, the wish to have a ‘parent’ take responsibility for our lives, as many people have pointed out, can lead people to view ‘God’ as a father figure. Political leaders can also become important fantasy figures who, for many people, take on the aura of ‘big daddy’, all-knowing and charismatic. Politicians we all observe are primarily concerned with preserving their positions than being useful to society. We only kid ourselves if we think that they really know what’s going on and are taking genuine responsibility.

    This becomes apparent when the contents of major, ‘private’, meetings of world leaders are leaked, revealing them to be as much in the dark as the rest of us — just reacting to events. This is why so many politicians become obsessed with secrecy, cutting people ‘out of the loop’, seeking scapegoats and rarely answer straight questions with straight answers. They are trying to maintain the structure and fantasy of being ‘guiding shepherds’ without knowing what is really needed. They do have a real secret, however, and it is that they are sheep too! They are not the omnipotent, far-seeing father figures that so many seem to long for.

    Western leaders like to claim we live in democracies but that notion doesn’t stand up to examination. For a start, democratically voting over every decision is hopelessly inefficient: decisions tend to take forever, involve compromises that prevent anything working in a straightforward manner and pander to the lowest common denominator in a group. Voting, of course, has a broad use in removing hopeless or tyrannical leaders from office. But democratic processes are only useful where they are necessary.

    There is another reason democracy is rare in human activity. It is because there are always people who find out that taking power is easier than asking for it. We all give up power easily — whatever we might like to think. And a lot of the time this is appropriate. If someone knows the path through a swamp you follow him. This is natural behaviour, but the problem is that people in all fields of human activity still tend to respond like mesmerised rabbits to anyone who offers to take responsibility, without checking out that the person really is competent to do so. If someone steals the clothes of the swamp guide and people follow him into the swamp, the likely result is that they will get lost and worse. And this taking of power is exactly what happens in cults. The problems arise because cult leaders promise what they cannot deliver – ‘enlightenment’, ‘security’, ‘riches’, ‘happiness’ etc. – yet people follow them anyway.

    Nevertheless, someone has to run things in any organisation. It is vital, therefore, that leaders in all types of organisation — political, business, educational, religious, social — can be trusted to withstand the development of cultish behaviour in themselves and those around them.

    Avoiding dissent

    Cults use various methods of indoctrination to keep cult members committed: alternative information about other ideas are banned and denigrated; cult ideals are endlessly promoted; and members are kept busy, thus distracting them from observing their changing state and what’s really going on.

    Yet this sort of behaviour also happens all of the time in our ordinary daily life when we involve ourselves in activities that back up our prejudices. We may, for instance, read newspapers that largely agree with and maintain our own views and political prejudices. But this limits our perspective, as we can never understand other points of view if we don’t study them.
    demand absolute loyalty from their teams. Many victims of medical accidents have claimed that the tendency of doctors to stick together makes it impossible to pursue a justified grievance. Similarly, it takes great courage for a member of hospital staff to become a whistle-blower, knowing of the ostracism that may well ensue from the entrenched management. Whistle-blowers in all fields, despite benefiting the common good, tend to lose their jobs.


    The cult devalues outsiders including those from other cults and anyone who criticises them — including members’ families. Again, this has its roots in prehistoric times when a natural caution towards approaching strangers was appropriate; they could be intent on your destruction or be diseased or plain old thieves.

    But the cult message massively distorts that survival template to, essentially, “we’re safe and everyone else is damned!” So, the logic goes, if you are in the cult, you must be superior to outsiders. Is not your ‘superiority’ the basic reason for your being in the cult in the first place?
    This view can harden even further to, “Outsiders are evil, we are right!” Everything is seen in black and white. No successful cult ever proclaimed, “Maybe we’re wrong!”
    Once outsiders are declared to be evil, it is a simple step to legitimise rationally whatever needs to be done to destroy or ‘save’ them. Even torture and killing can become a sanctified activity. This pattern can be seen throughout history — just consider, for instance, the appalling intolerance and cruelty of many conquering people towards those they overran in the past.
    … … …
    Another important cult characteristic is projection, where we see in others a trait we don’t want to see in ourselves and then attack them for it. This too is common in ordinary life. A bigot, for example, might say; “I wouldn’t listen to him. He’s from down south, and all southerners are prejudiced!”
    … … …
    Mind Control techniques include:

    Peer group pressure: Suppressing doubt and resistance to new ideas by exploiting the need to belong

    Love bombing: Exploiting the innate need for intimacy by creating a sense of family and belonging through hugging, kissing, touching and flattery
    … … …
    Rejection of old values: Accelerating acceptance of new life style by constantly denouncing former values and beliefs

    Confusion: Encouraging blind acceptance and rejection of logic through interminable complex lectures on incomprehensible doctrines
    … … …
    Disinhibition: Encouraging child-like obedience by orchestrating child-like behaviour such as circle dancing, chanting
    … … …
    Verbal abuse: Desensitizing through bombardment with critical, foul and abusive language
    … … …
    Financial commitment: Achieving increased dependence on the group by ‘burning bridges’ to the past, through the donation of assets
    Finger pointing: Creating a false sense of righteousness by pointing to the shortcomings of the outside world and other cults
    Flaunting hierarchy: Promoting acceptance of cult authority by promising advancement, power and salvation
    Isolation: Inducing loss of reality by physical separation from family, friends, society and rational references
    … … …
    No questions: Accomplishing automatic acceptance of beliefs by discouraging questions
    … … ….

    … … …

    Deikman has shown how the patterns that characterise cults are found in all kinds of human activities, including the military, politics, religious, sport, psychotherapy, academia, entertainment, education and training. Below is just one of his examples: corporate business and administrative organisations.

    In any such organisation, the chief executive usually becomes the chief authoritarian. They tend to manipulate the truth about situations and abuse their power. Negative reinforcement is often used, and threat of punishment is linked with power. Most companies automatically develop an authoritarian structure. The lives of employees are often regulated to some extent by the firm. There is ‘sibling rivalry’ in competition for advancement and the need for approval by ‘parents’ — one’s managerial superiors. Everyone hopes for promotion. Managers tend to feel that they personally should have more power and their subordinates should have less.
    The similarity between cult induction and joining a company is striking. The new employee may have to become totally immersed, leading to overwork, exhaustion and having only enough time to mix with other workers, thus reinforcing the company ethos.

    Company personnel exhibit ‘in-group’ identification. Certain uniforms of dress and behaviour become company trademarks. Subordinates curry favours and copy superiors, often in silly ways such as wearing the same shoes or sporting the same style of coloured tie. Dress cues become important statements that give away individuals’ ambitions and signal who they would like to be. This is really sympathetic magic: “If I wear what the boss wears, I’ll become like the boss”.

    Subordinates may also fear the consequences of dissent. They won’t speak out if they disagree with the group or its leaders, fearing the consequences of becoming outcasts. Dissent from the company ethos is not encouraged in companies unless it is ritualised ‘token’ dissent.

    Family needs are often sacrificed for the needs of the company. Commonly, a family is expected to move with the job. This may cause family disintegration, loneliness and insecurity for children, etc. Also, when a family announces they are going to move on, people they know often ‘drop’ them. The family suddenly becomes invisible to neighbours. No one wants to invest any more time with them. It’s as if they have already gone. This is very painful for wives and children who don’t understand what’s happening and who tend to blame themselves for ‘being unpopular’.

    Despite the pain that moving causes, the company must come first. Loyalty to the larger group is seen as more important than loyalty to the family. The employees most likely to get themselves into this fix are those still looking for a ‘parent’, and their need to be part of a greater family is more powerful than duty to the real families that they are now responsible for themselves.

    • yalensis says:

      Thanks, @kievite, this is a fascinating discussion of cults. Navalny does, IMNO, exhibit a few characteristics of a cult leader; for example, his followers financially support him through donations; and he gets them to chant his mindless slogan about “crooks and thieves”. On the other hand, Navalny does NOT exhibit one of the most classic symptoms of a cult leader: he does not have a harem. (That we know of.) Charles Manson is the iconic cult leader who gathers underage girls along with some male underlings into a personal harem, and they all live together in some remote place where they can practice their alt-lifestyle. Same deal with Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church. Generally, one of the perks of being a cult leader, is that you get all the chicks you want. Navalny, on the other hand, seems to be involved in traditional monogamous marriage with the wife and kiddies.

  38. Юрий Владимирович Андропов says:

    Navalny’s primary point of appeal is the fact that, where Medvedev and Putin struggle to manage even an Internet presence with grace, it is a natural medium of expression for him. The new wave of popular Russian dissent that begun on December 24 certainly has the technological revolution to thank for its exponential success, and Navalny’s strong online presence allows him the means of reaching an audience that official channels of dissemination would never allow. As a result, ‘opposing Putin [is now] something cool and normal,’ and it’s the Kremlin cronies who are looking stranger than ever.


    • marknesop says:

      If you say so. I’m afraid I’m having a hard time seeing a cause that draws only a tiny proportion of the voting population as an “exponential success”, but you’re certainly entitled to your opinion. Similarly, I don’t know that Putin or Medvedev pay very much attention to the internet; we have only Navalny’s word that Putin is trying to “get him” through clumsy internet attacks. Is it your contention that Navalny as a political figure would lead the country via the internet? Is he going to do all his international conferences through Skype? There are certain things a leader will have to do in which Navalny thus far has shown no discernible ability. That’s not to say he never could, but at the moment he doesn’t seem ready for the role his supporters rave that he should take on.

      Opposing Putin is something cool and normal to the people to whom it has always seemed cool and normal, which is to say the Moscow School of Higher Economics elites and their western-envious friends, the perpetual malcontents who are never satisfied, some wide-eyed students who will go along with anything for a bit of excitement and the nationalistic sign-wavers who want to see Russia cut off the Caucasus.

      Let’s not have Navalny measuring the curtains in the President’s office just yet.

    • kievite says:

      Yes, there is a tremendous advantage for opposition in Internet. No doubt about it. I see just three “pro-government” Internet sites out of two dozens most popular Runet media names that I visit.

      I would say that most of “official” Internet news media including all Gasprom assets are “anti-Putin”. When I read Echo of Moscow website (financed by Gasprom) It is difficult to understand why it is not called “Echo of Israel” ;-). When I read Kommersant web site my impression is that it is still owned by Berezovsky ;-). When I read news.rambler.ru my impression is that this is a hostile foreign power controlled media. :-(. And gazeta.ru can be called “Voice of Navalny”.

      Incredible situation when a pretty large country completly lost control of Internet media.

      • marknesop says:

        What?? That’s impossible!! Russians are not free, and Putin ruthlessly controls the media!! Oh, wait…except for the Internet, where Navalny reigns supreme. But only because it is cool to be opposed to Putin.

        I can’t wait for Navalny’s virtual presidency. First he will have to resign as virtual mayor of St Petersburg; I’m pretty sure that would be a virtual conflict of interest. I hope he’s saving up lots of hit points and extra lives for the election.

    • Evgeny Morozov describes this as the “net delusion”, and (IIRC) “digital euphoria” – the idea that now that everything’s smart and interconnected and stuff, the Internet is a key and even indispensable medium for political success and one that will only benefit the Navalnys and Internet hamsters (to borrow from Nemtsov) of this world.

      In reality, the people who are into the entire blogging / Twitter thing for their news and activism ideas make up at most 5% of the population (a much lower share than the 40%+ of Russians who now have access to the Internet, but most of whom use it for things like mail and reading mainstream media outlets); and of that 5%, far from all of them are the liberal pro-Westerners you clearly identify yourself with (there being many “patriot”, “pro-Kremlin”, commie, and anarchist / radical left activists too).

      • marknesop says:

        Add to that, they spend all their time on Twitter and social media, and get a self-perpetuating version of reality stovepiped into their head as if they were wearing a headset and couldn’t hear what was going on around them.

        I don’t dispute the internet is a powerful tool and I would certainly agree social media have played a big part in mobilizing previously inert communities (there’s a mini-Twitter revolution going on now in Nigeria, for instance; Nigeria!!). But it’s just a tool. In much the same way a big fat sweaty convict can convince you he’s a sex-starved 19-year-old girl over a sex line where you can’t see him, it’s fairly easy for a hero to emerge from among the untried masses of the internet. A few successes are invented, packaged and marketed, and presto – he’s Ghengis Kilobyte, ready to do battle for his fellow man.

        You can’t run a country from the internet. At some point, the Wizard of Oz will have to come out from behind the curtain and show the unconnected sub-hamsters how he plans to balance the budget and safeguard the country’s interests.

    • yalensis says:

      Oh my goodness, yes! Navalny is WERY, WERY good at Internet! If our world were a virtual world and all the people were hamsters, then he would be Tsar! Fortunately, as a great philosopher once said, Reality DOES exist.

  39. kievite says:

    Putin tries to hail his achivements and suggest the future couse of his government.
    He oulined his program in an article published by Izvestia. RT has the the full translation of the article.


    • yalensis says:

      Lebedev’s recipe for Russian success:
      “Brave journalists cannot do it alone, however. Russia’s people need the help of the EU, OECD, UN, and IMF. Perhaps Nato and the distinguished guests at Davos might take an interest too…”
      Lebedev just named the exact same gang which just destroyed Libya. In the course of just 8 months they took the wealthiest country in Africa, with the highest standard of living and biggest middle-class; a country with universal literacy, a cradle-to-grave welfare state in which almost every family lived in decent subsidized housing with running water, electricity, and modern appliances including satellite TV; – they took this country and turned it into the violent hell that it is today, with whole towns and neighborhoods destroyed, thousands homeless; in which people do not even have basics like food and water; an oil-producing country in which people cannot find gasoline to fuel their automobiles; tens of thousands of killed, displaced, or in prison; and nobody is safe from murderous Al Qaeda militias.
      They took a country that had no foreign debt and something like $600 billion in pure cash and gold reserves in the bank and now has no money to pay government salaries and will shortly have to sign contracts with IMF to borrow money for operating expenses.
      As Libyans say, “Thanks, NATO!” Russians can only watch and envy….

  40. Moscow Exile says:

    As regards the negative reports about matters Russian that appear with stultifying frequency in the Western news media, it seems that if they have nothing new to say that can cast Russia in a bad light, then they just repeat old “news”.

    In this morning’s (17th January 2012) online British “The Daily Telegraph”, in the front page feature “Most Viewed”, subsection “Today” and already in 2nd position as I write, is an article entitled ” Black Widow attempted New Year Moscow attack but blew herself up by mistake”.

    Being a Moscow resident, I felt that this was an amazing piece of news that had gone unnoticed – amongst Muscovites at least.

    I went to the article in question. It sems that the woman had been in her flat when her mobile telephone detonating device had been triggered by a New Year spam message. The report went on to say that the terrorist attack had been scheduled to follow onto the attack made at Domodedevo airport in December, when 35 were killed and that the police were still trying to identify the airport bomber by means of his severed head, which was found at the scene of the explosion.

    Bells began to ring when I read this. Sounds familiar, I thought. Unbelievably familiar. That happened over a year ago as well.

    I checked the date of the report: 0:15PM GMT 26 Jan 2011.

    Andrew Osborne, the Telegraph’s man in Moscow wrote this article almost exactly one year ago.

    An oversight?

    Any bad news concerning Russia is good news for a western rag, even if if the “news” is a year old?

    • marknesop says:

      The interest of the audience certainly speaks to its attentiveness, what?

      If Russia actually was anything like the country described in the western press, there would be reason to worry.

    • cartman says:

      Some of these papers (at least the British ones) I wonder if they have been taken over by intelligence services. The Guardian – which is supposedly to the political left and loved by American liberals – leaked the Wikileaks passwords they were entrusted to, then went on a smear campaign against the organization. Their section on Russia is unsurprisingly totally negative, with articles about tragedies permanently stickied. They publish for the plutarchy, directly and through advocates from organizations hired to represent them (like APCO, though this was not disclosed by them.)

      • Dear Cartman,

        Viz the theory that newspapers having been taken over by the intelligence services or at least heavily influenced by them is one that many people hold (including people who have discused it with me whose identities might surprise you) but it is not something that is widely talked about for fairly obvious reasons or which can be easily proved. There was however an interesting article some months ago in the Independent, which mentioned that newspaper editors have regular meetings with the intelligence services over afternoon tea. The article was buried in the inside pages and of course attracted no attention but the author seemed to know what he was saying. I did wonder what the purpose of the article was. Possibly a signal to someone? I discussed the article at the time on the Craig Murray blog and drew the attention of a commentator who was either a fantasist or someone from the intelligence services (not impossible by the way) who appeared so well informed about the matter that in the end I found him quite sinister.

        Anyway the strongest indicator that of some sort of coordination of news management takes place particularly over foreign news (eg. Russia, Libya, Syria etc) is when newspapers simultaneously publish identical stories sometimes using the same or very similar words and quite often making the same identical misquotes or mistakes, However that is not conclusive. The media world is quite small and journalists regularly exchange gossip and stories so it is not surprising if they end up writing and saying the same things.

        @Moscow Exile

        One of the most bizarre articles I ever read about Russia in the Daily Telegraph was in the 1980s which alleged that the Gagarin flight was a hoax. That at least was written during the Cold War, Imagine my astonishment when a few months ago at the time of the Gagarin anniversary I read another article in the Daily Telegraph which came close to saying the same thing. As for the story of the Black Widow, what it shows is that the Barclay brothers who own the Daily Telegraph are followers of the teachings of William Randolph Hearst, who instructed journalists working for his newspapers to “never let the facts get in the way of a good story”.

      • yalensis says:

        The good news is that the “comments” section of the Guardian is still free. Check out some of the amusing and intelligent comments on the Lebedev editorial. Guardian commenters are some of the best in the world, their incisiveness and biting sarcasm indicate there is hope yet for the people who spawned Milton and Shakespeare!

        • marknesop says:

          Yes, it seemed to me that those who agreed with Lebedev were in the minority by quite a bit. In fact, I didn’t see any as far down as I read.

          • yalensis says:

            There were 2 commenters who liked and approved of Lebedev, everybody else hated him, but with that lovely British dry humor.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          It’s free as long as you don’t criticise the Guardian’s Tin-Tin, the head of the Guardian Moscow bureau and noted plagiarist who was brutally harassed by the brutal KGB out of that brutal state known as the former Soviet Union.
          (“Brutal” is Harding’s favourite epithet when describing anything to do with Russia, e.g. Russian soldiers attacked Chechen separatists in their usual brutal way. I suppose he thinks that Chechens try to tickle Russians to death.)

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Here’s another amazing article concerning Russia from today’s UK “Daily Telegraph” – amazing, that is, in that it admits that the accusations made unanimously throughout the Western media that the Russians were lying through their teeth when they announced in 2006 that British secret service agents had been operating in Moscow using a “spy rock” were, in fact, totally false.

            Former British PM Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell has admitted that “the ‘embarrassing’ episode was entirely true and not merely far-fetched Russian propaganda”. In an interview that will be broadcast this evening (Jan 19, 2012) on the BBC, Powell admits that UK agents did plant a “spy rock” in Moscow, “despite attempts by the then-prime minister to dismiss the story and denials of improper conduct by the Foreign Office”. Powell confesses: “They had us bang to rights. Clearly they had known about it for some time and had been saving it up for a political purpose”.

            Oh, those wicked, wicked Russians! They had been clearly saving the revalation of their knowledge of British skulduggery for a political purpose. How dastardly of them!

            See: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/9022827/Russian-spy-rock-was-genuine-former-chief-of-staff-admits.html

            • yalensis says:

              Of course the story was true. Using “drops” is the oldest spy trick in the world. And much safer than committing treason via e-mail. Note to Navalny.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                More on the “spy rock” scandal has been revealed in today’s “The Moscow News”. It turns out that one of several British embassy diplomats filmed in proximity to the infamous “rock” was the then second secretary of the embassy, Marc Doe. Doe’s nefarious activities were filmed and shown on a state TV-channel Rossia 1 programme. The key thing concerning Doe was that he was the “contoller”, as it were, of several Russian NGOs. It was Doe who handed over the readies to some of them – all in the pursuit of establishing a free and fair democratic society in Russia, of course.

                A consequence of this Russian TV revelation was that Vladimir Putin declared that financial support from abroad should be cancelled for Russian NGOs. The “opposition” then immediately reacted by saying this was clearly an attempt by Putin to curb NGO activities and that the “spy-rock” story was just a scam with a view to closing down many NGOs.

                Enter the human-rights watchdog Moscow Helsinki Group, which then took the FSB to court, claiming that accusations that it was a hireling of foreign governments was a slander.

                The group lost the case.

                See: http://www.themoscownews.com/russia/20120119/189380523.html

                • marknesop says:

                  And that’s the critical take-away from this story – I hope Putin hypes it relentlessly: that he was perfectly right to limit and regulate the activities of foreign NGO’s. Because he was.

                  Thanks for breaking that story down, nice work.

            • marknesop says:

              Yes, I touched on it briefly in this post; it was referred to as “Operation Roadside”. Amazingly, the “rock” was powered by a Blackberry. Good advertisement for RIM, I would have thought. According to the source I cited, “assets” of this operation did not even have to stop or otherwise call attention to the “rock” as they passed by – simply be in fairly close proximity, and send.

              Sometimes it’s depressing how similar all countries are in their efforts to fight to the top and gain advantage, while pretending to be so different. It’s the pretending to be different part that’s depressing, because quite a few of each nation’s citizens believe it. Witness, as I also mentioned in the same post, the difference in language: subtle, but effective. If somebody willing to pass sensitive information on the country knowing it will be used to harm or gain advantage over the country works for you, he’s an “asset”. If he works for the other side, he’s a “traitor”.

              • The fact that the US government funds NGOs in order to promote what it calls “democracy extension” should not be controversial. It has been official US policy since the 1980s when the Reagan administration got Congress to pass a law authorising it.

                • marknesop says:

                  That’s quite true, but I’ve noticed the version of democracy promoted by these groups seems to be not at all like democracy is actually practiced in their own countries – which is to say a pure ideal rather than the slanted-heavily-toward-the-rich-and-the-elites system which actually prevails – and selects as its instruments those who they believe have the best chance of bringing down the government in power or destabilizing the country. I’ve further noticed the democracy-advocacy NGO’s are rarely to be found in dirt-poor countries that have neither desirable resources or strategic locations. In those cases, the NGO’s found are mostly the genuinely charitable who are there to ease suffering, and do good work. I guess poor people who have the misfortune to be located off the main trade routes don’t need democracy or responsible government. By contrast, all the major energy exporters need democracy now-now-now, and a leader who is western-oriented.

                  Western democracies would not for a second permit the level of interference in their electoral process countries like Russia are expected not only to tolerate, but to be grateful for. Anyone who doubts that is invited to try it; propose to the United States Government that a Russian election-monitoring agency be permitted to conduct independent monitoring of the vote and exit polling in the upcoming presidential election. This must furthermore be allowed in conditions of complete freedom; American security services and election monitors are not permitted to shadow them or hinder their efforts to get “the people’s view”. Good luck. If you manage to get people on the ground, you-tube a few shaky clips that you say are people cheating and broadcast through friendly media that American election monitors impeded you from getting a good view of voting procedures, so you suspect widespread fraud. See how long it takes for them to escort you to the airport.

                  Actual agencies that wish to establish a friendly relationship and strengthen ties, maybe offer a few helpful suggestions should be welcomed. Those, however, are agencies that wish to gain an advantageous position in future business deals and policymaking, and if they don’t like the way the government in power does things, they work with the government in power to bring about change. The agencies we’re discussing here are maneuvering for short-term control and have neither the time or the patience to deal with the present government. It’s easier to sow discontent and use the rubes to bring down the government, then use the ensuing chaos to appoint a western-friendly leader who will jump through hoops for western money and favour.

        • cartman says:

          The comments section gave me a headache – especially the argument that oligarchs can only receive superior justice in Britain, therefore their asylum is justified. The thing is, Britain’s justice system puts the responsibility on the accused, so it is widely considered Draconian.

          That may also be why the Guardian monitors are so delete-button-happy. Craig Murray – who was fired for saying the Foreign Office gives visas for sex – was threatened by lawyers after he said something about Alisher Usmanov (Jabba’s twin brother).

          • The Berezovsky v Abramovitch case was brought in Britain because Berezovsky lives in Britain and cannot return to Russia. If my memory serves me rightly the British authorities refused Russia’s request for the extradition of Berezovsky and the Chechen warlord Akayev not because the charges against them had not been properly made out but because they claimed that they would not receive a fair trial in Russia. I seem to remember that it was even suggested that they might be tortured if they were sent back to Russia, which if so is a bit rich given what has happened in Britain and the US since then. Needless to say given their international prominence there would have been absolutely no possibility of Berezovsky and Akayev having been tortured if they had been sent back to Russia.

            Since Berezovsky cannot go to Russia or bring his case against Abramovitch in Russia he had to bring it in an English court. The question of the supposed better competence of the English court as opposed to the Russian court, which has been made so much of, actually does not exist. Berezovsky simply did not have the option of suing Abramovitch in a Russian court. The English court accepted jurisdiction in the case because one of the contracts that Berezovsky claims he made with Abramovitch was supposedly agreed by the two whilst they were both in England.

            For me as a British citizen the single most objectionable aspect of the Berezovsky affair is not that he was granted asylum here but that he was granted British citizenship. Many years ago Mohammed Al Fayed who bought the Harrods Department Store was refused British citizenship supposedly because of doubts about his business dealings. I should say that this happened long before his son Dodi started dating Diana Princess of Wales and the subsequent feud between Al Fayed and the British royal family that happened after their death. Needless to say there is absolutely no comparison between Al Fayed’s business dealings, shady though they might have been, and Berezovsky’s. I speak as someone who is no fan of Al Fayed’s given that he once threatened me with a libel action! Nonetheless I find it disgraceful that Al Fayed, who employed thousands of workers in Britain in legitimate businesses that paid tax, should have been denied citizenship on the grounds of his shady business dealings whilst Berezovsky despite (or because?) of his far worse business dealings was granted it.

            • marknesop says:

              Al-Fayed was in no wise useful as a stick to poke in the eye of the Russian government. Berezovsky, from a western viewpoint, is worth his weight in citizenship in terms of his generous support for revolutions that result in conditions favourable for western advance, as the Orange Revolution was supposed to do. But that failure wasn’t Berezovsky’s fault; he allegedly financed Viktor Yushchenko’s campaign and donated money to feed and shelter the protesters so they wouldn’t go home, and he did his bit. The crazy dynamic between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko is what made that fall apart, which is why I find continuing western support for Tymoshenko so odd.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              In December 2002 self appointed Chechen “diplomat” Akhmed Zakayev was arrested at Heathrow airport on the request of the Russian Attorney General’s office but was then released on bail for $85,000, which was paid by British actress Vanessa Redgrave. It seems that former actor Zakayev is the darling of many London “luvvies”, even though he is reported to have participated in the operations of Chechen insurgents against Russian Armed Forces between 1995 and 2000 and now faces 13 different serious charges in Russia. In November 2003, on hearing of Judge Timothy Workman’s decision to reject a Russian request that Zakayev be extradited to Russia for trial, Redgrave was overjoyed and gushed to reporters outside the court that Zakayev was a “wonderful actor” and that it was ridiculous to suggest that he was a “Chechen warlord”.
              Judge Workman rejected the Russian request, deciding that it was politically motivated and that Zakayev would be at risk of torture in that the Russian demand for extradition was “unjust and oppressive”. The judge also said that the alleged crimes, which involved Zakayev using armed force against combatants, were not extraditable because they took place in a situation of internal armed conflict, commenting that murder is not committed by an armed combatant in a state of war but only, under English law, during “Her Majesty’s Peace” and that the situation when Zakayev allegedly perpetrated or assisted in acts of murder was not a peaceful one.
              Russian authorities immediately responded to the judge’s decision by accusing the court of double standards. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov commented: “It is enough to recall Akhmed Zakayev’s statement he made from London, in which he plainly and bluntly … blamed what happened in Beslan on the Russian leadership. The cynicism of this statement is clear to everybody”.
              However, Foreign Minister Lavrov later diplomatically added that he did not believe the decision by the British and American governments to offer asylum to Zakayev and another separatist, Ilyas Akhmadov, was a case of “deliberate” double standards; instead he blamed “inertia” and hang-ups from the cold war. “It is difficult to get rid of outdated stereotypes, but, although I don’t want to look immodest, we are managing to do this faster than our partners”, said the foreign minister.
              Although the granting of political exile to Zakayev and others still remains a bone of contention between the UK government and that of Russia, Zakayev has long been a person of no great significance. After Ramzan Kadyrov came to power in Chechnya, the Maskhdov and Basayev-led “Ichkerian government in exile” (in which at one point Shamil Basayev had been “Prime Minister” under “President” Aslan Maskhadov) lost what influence it had in the Chechen Republic and the Chechen “government in exile” poses no threat to Moscow or Grozny, which means that no one really needs Zakayev to be extradited; apart, that is, from the relatives of those people whose murders Zakayev allegedly committed or planned. To quote RIA Novisti on this matter:
              “During the first Chechen war (December 1994 to August 1996), like many others, Zakayev committed crimes, but nothing by comparison with the body count racked up by such hardened criminals as Shamil Basayev, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev or Salman Raduyev. Zakayev was essentially a somewhat dim, rather minor agitator, with a very loud voice”.
              Notwithstanding the fact that he represents no one, Zakayev still regular appears as the pet terror-act analyst of the Western press, commenting on terrorist attacks carried out by illegal armed groups. However, his versions of such events are frequently less than convincing.
              For example, Zakayev gave an interview to the BBC during the Nord-Ost tragedy, which took place in 2002 at Moscow’s Dubrovka Theatre, commenting that the crime had been organized by the Russians themselves to frame Maskhadov.
              But to return to Judge Workman’s reasoning as regards Zakayev being immune from a charge of murder because any alleged deaths caused or planned by him had taken place during a situation of “internal armed conflict”, and to Russian allegations of British legal duplicity:
              Today, January 20th 2012, at Antrim Crown Court, Northern Ireland (a province of the United Kingdom), Brian Shivers, 46, of Magherafelt, Co Londonderry was found guilty by Mr Justice Anthony Hart of the murder of two British soldiers shot dead in 2009 outside the Massereene barracks in Northern Ireland. Shivers was sentenced to life imprisonment.
              Apparently, Mr. Justice Hart must not have considered the situation at the time of the murders to be one of “internal conflict” and that the murdered soldiers’ deaths took place during “The Queen’s Peace”.

  41. kievite says:

    An interesting accusation of Medvedev from “Nashi” leader (
    http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/yakemenko-blames-medvedev-for-protests/451198.html) :

    Last month’s large anti-government protests were triggered in part by President Dmitry Medvedev’s failure to live up to his words, the founder of the pro-Kremlin Nashi youth movement said in a rare interview published Tuesday.

    “Much has been said about freedom and little has been done in recent years,” Federal Youth Agency head Vasily Yakemenko told the Lenta.ru news site.

    He said the protesters’ main motive was not so much to protest alleged fraud in the State Duma elections but to protest Medvedev’s decision not to stand for re-election. “These people realized that they no longer have a leader they can count on,” he said.

    Please note that lenta.ru is a “liberasti outlet” owned by Rambler.

  42. yalensis says:

    There was news today that an agency called Fitch downgraded Russia’s credit rating. See, for example:


    I have heard of Moody’s and S&P, but I have not heard of Fitch, so I don’t know how important this is?
    The NPR piece makes clear that downgrade was done for political reasons, because of the street protests. So: West subsidizes liberal opposition, pays for streets protests against Putin, then downgrades Russia’s credit rating based on these same street protests, which they themselves paid for. Pretty circular, no? Especially if the purpose is to harm Putin’s re-election chances. Recall that West and their agents such as Navalny have clearly stated their tactic is to prevent Putin from winning first-round outright and have to stand for run-off. It stands to reason that Russian voters will be upset about the credit-downgrade and may blame Putin, since he is Prime Minister.

    • Back to the elections!

      I gather that there is an electoral pact between the KPRF and Udaltsov’s and Kagarlitsky’s Red Front. Zyuganov and Udaltsov have met (there is a photo of the two smiling together) and Udaltsov has endorsed Zyuganov for President. Zyuganov in return promises to carry out some or all of Udaltsov’s programme.

      Isn’t Zyuganov an admirer of Stalin’s? Isn’t Udaltsov an anti Stalinist admirer of Trotsky? Is this the Great Reconciliation between the followers of Stalin and Trotsky? Or is Udaltsov’s Red Front another CIA/western NGO concoction in which case what is the KRPF doing going into bed with it?

      On a separate front, the most fantastic proposal yet to come out of the election campaign has just been made Prokhorov. This is that he might appoint Khodorkovsky as his Prime Minister (!) and Surkov to run the northern Caucasus (!!). Is this man a serious candidate? Or is he merely there to lighten the January gloom by providing everyone with some comic relief?

      • yalensis says:

        Stalinists and Trotskyists finally becoming friends, after all those decades of bad blood?
        That would be as strange as … well, for example, a cat making friends with a duck:

      • marknesop says:

        Yes, indeed; a billionaire oligarch appointing another billionaire oligarch and convicted felon as his Prime Minister. I can’t see what could go wrong with that.

        Prokhorov is plainly pandering to his western admirers, since there is no wave of public sentiment in Russia for Khodorkovsky’s release and appointment to the second-most-powerful position in politics. I’d imagine there’s something in the rule book about criminals being elected to public office, and it’s not for twits like Prokhorov to decide they can overrule the law just because they feel the subject was wrongfully accused. At least Russian politics is now getting just as ridiculous as western politics, thanks to Prokhorov. No longer will the electorate have to rely solely on Zhirinovsky for comical political positions, ridiculous outbursts and absurd election promises.

        • yalensis says:

          Prokhorov: “Vote for me and I will appoint Khodorkovsky Prime Minister. Together we will turn you all back into serfs and then go on to conquer the galaxy. Mwa-hahaahahahahah [evil laughter] !”
          Somebody out there is just messing with us, did Putin put him up to this?

    • marknesop says:

      Awesome. This should be a no-lose for Putin. If he wants to approach it from the perspective that this is damaging, he can characterize the protesters as irresponsible and selfish individualists with no real slate of complaints except those westerners are putting in their heads, whose thoughtless actions are hurting Russia, its economy and the 90% of the electorate that is not demonstrating – since the source was kind enough to highlight that the downgrade is purely political. If he wants to approach it from the perspective that it is meaningless politically-motivated chinwagging on the part of the west, he can draw on pages of material published by the United States when its own credit rating was downgraded, laughing it off and telling everyone what a non-story it was.

      Come on, United Russia! Do I have to think of everything myself?

    • Foppe says:

      Fitch is the smallest of the big three, so still a “first tier” Class Warfare Agency/CRA. All the country ratings are based on bullshit for methodology, though, since there is no real way to factor in political developments.

      • Dear Foppe,

        Quite so!

        Russia’s credit rating is ludicrous and a complete scandal. At the present time Russia is running a budget surplus, a trade surplus, has the world’s third biggest foreign currency reserves, has a mininal foreign debt, a miniscule public debt and very low private debt. It’s economy has been growing steadily and rapidly for more than a decade for much of which time its GDP growth rate has been around 7% per year and it has recovered impressively from the financial crisis to clock in growth last year of more than 4%. Yet all three of the big credit rating agencies give it a rating just above junk bond status.

        One does not eve have to analyse Russia’s economy to show that this is wrong. What has happened in the last few years proves it. Countries that have until recently had much higher ratings than Russia such as Iceland, Ireland and Portugal not to mention Cyprus and Greece have had to seek outside financial assistance in the case of Cyprus from Russia! Russia has not had to seek any assistance and there is no possibility of its needed to do so. Surely this shows that Russia’s rating was and is far too low and that the credit ratings of all the countries that had to seek bailouts and whose credit ratings were so much higher than Russia had credit ratings that were too high.

        To my mind Russia’s absurdly low credit rating is all of a piece with its absurdly low rating in Transparency International’s corruption index (is there anybody who really believes that Russia is as corrupt as Nigeria or Zimbabwe?) and the disgracefully low international rankings of its higher education institutions. Quite simply there is an institutional bias in all these indices against Russia that is so extreme as to be completely obvious.

        • marknesop says:

          It is simply more pandering to a narrative. Credit agencies issue downgrades based on operational risk, and while a country’s political situation could certainly affect the operational risk exposure of its financial sector, there’s no indication that the Moscow protests are affecting Russia’s fiscal credibility. Certainly not in Fitch’s view, since they just revised their economic outlook for 6 Russian foreign-owned bank subsidiaries and affirmed the stability of the state banking system. I’d be interested in viewing the report in detail, but not $85.00 interested. I’m pretty sure the headline speaks for itself.

          Perhaps the intent is to continue playing to the discontent among the Russian “elites”; see, Putin’s decision to run again is affecting your economic stability. But it rings hollow in view of France’s recent downgrade – about which the nation was furious, and it certainly won’t help Sarkozy going into an election with popularity ratings in the low 30’s – because at bottom, Fitch is a French company. Although headquartered in New York and London, it belongs to Fimalac, which is in turn owned by French billionaire and descendant of titled nobility Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere.

          Also, basing a credit downgrade on dissent sets a dangerous precedent, if no other risk factors are present. Such a credit downgrade was conspicuous by its absence when Saakashvili sent in the riot police to crush demonstrations in 2007, or when he did it again just last year. As an aside, western newspapers did not break into guffaws, either, when Saakashvili complained that foreigners (Russia, naturally) were behind the protests. Similarly, no credit downgrade for Israel when protests more than twice the size of those in Russia occurred in a country with a population more than 50 times smaller; on the contrary, Standard & Poors bumped Israel’s rating from A to A+ only a month later based on “Israel’s rapid economic growth and responsible economic policy”. Israel’s economic growth in 2011 was 4.6%. Russia’s economic growth in 2011 was 4.2%. Oh, don’t forget the average $3 Billion in foreign-aid transfers to Israel from the United States. Russia….uhhh…doesn’t get that.

          If Sarkozy can laugh off a credit downgrade when his ratings are in the low 30’s, I’m sure Putin can just laugh at it as well. Because it is funny; Russia has tons of money in the bank and is the world’s largest energy producer – the notion that its international credit rating is junk is laughable on the face of it, and this newest political angle seems just another gambit to damage the Russian economy and give the protesters something to scream about.

          But if I were Putin, I’d be adding Fitch to my grudge list for payback when I got back in office. And that’d be getting to be a long list.

  43. Moscow Exile says:

    And whom did McFaul, the newly appointed US ambassador to Russia, choose to invite to the US embassy on Tuesday, 17th January, for a chat after his having met the Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister on the previous day?

    Those who had a little informal get-together at the embassy with McFaul included: Boris Nemtsov, Sergei Mitrokhin, State Duma Deputies Ilya Ponomaryov and Oksana Dmitriyeva of A Just Russia, and Leonid Kalashnikov of the Communist Party. Lilia Shibanova, head of Golos, was there as well; so was Yevgenia Chirikova, who commented on Twitter that the fact that McFaul chose to meet members of “the opposition” before meeting the prime minister characterizes him “very positively”.

    Her gushing tweet of admiration for McFaul is here: http://twitter.com/4irikova

    • yalensis says:

      Nemtsov was invited but not Navalny? That should make La Russophobe happy: she was getting pretty ticked about that rat Navalny stealing all the thunder from her beloved Boris.

    • yalensis says:

      Chirikova tweet:
      Если можно использовать Америку в борьбе против режима ПЖиВ и Путина,разграбляющих природные ресурсы нашей страны это надо делать!
      9 hours ago

      This traitorous tosser thinks she can USE America in her power struggle against Putin??
      My dear Zhenya, a little geo-political education is in order: America USES people. People do not USE America.

      • marknesop says:

        Chirikova is still getting used to her overnight fame and new position as a “major opposition leader” courtesy of Nemtsov’s hacked phone account.

        • yalensis says:

          Speaking of which, let us review Boris Nemtsov’s opinion of Chirikova, as expressed in his hacked telephone conversations:

          • Борис Немцов о Чириковой: Эта мразь Чирикова продолжает тявкать?
          • Немцов и Панюшкин: Чирикова клянчит у меня деньги

          “That piece of crud Chirikova, is she still whining [about something]…?”
          “That [bitch] Chirikova is trying to mooch money off me again…”
          Yeah, pity poor Boris, he himself turned this little tosser into an overnight celebrity, now he has to make nice with her and pretend to like her, for the benefit of their American overseers. It must really gall him to have to share the stage with her at McFoul’s gala Opposition ball!

  44. Moscow Exile says:

    Yes, my dear, the good ol’ USA will bring you freedom and democracy and help you in the exploitation and equitable distribution of your natural resources. Now just bend over and spread your cheeks wide, dear.

  45. kievite says:

    There was however an interesting article some months ago in the Independent, which mentioned that newspaper editors have regular meetings with the intelligence services over afternoon tea. The article was buried in the inside pages and of course attracted no attention but the author seemed to know what he was saying. I did wonder what the purpose of the article was. Possibly a signal to someone? I discussed the article at the time on the Craig Murray blog and drew the attention of a commentator who was either a fantasist or someone from the intelligence services (not impossible by the way) who appeared so well informed about the matter that in the end I found him quite sinister.

    If so then UK is definitely quite a backward country. “Operation Mockingbird” launched in 1940th in the USA (http://www.prisonplanet.com/analysis_louise_01_03_03_mockingbird.html) was specifically directed to buying influence behind the scenes at major media outlets and putting reporters on the CIA payroll, “which has proven to be a stunning ongoing success”.

    Media assets will eventually include ABC, NBC, CBS, Time, Newsweek, Associated Press, United Press International (UPI), Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps-Howard, Copley News Service, etc. and 400 journalists, who have secretly carried out assignments according to documents on file at CIA headquarters, from intelligence-gathering to serving as go-betweens. The CIA had infiltrated the nation’s businesses, media, and universities with tens of thousands of on-call operatives by the 1950’s. CIA Director Dulles had staffed the CIA almost exclusively with Ivy League graduates, especially from Yale with figures like George Herbert Walker Bush from the “Skull and Crossbones” Society.

    Many researchers now talk about “media-military-industrial complex” which replaced old “military-industrial complex”, the danger about which Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned the US people in his last Presidential address. See http://carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php

    THE CIA’S USE OF JOURNALISTS CONTINUED VIRTUALLY unabated until 1973 when, in response to public disclosure that the Agency had secretly employed American reporters, William Colby began scaling down the program. In his public statements, Colby conveyed the impression that the use of journalists had been minimal and of limited importance to the Agency.

    He then initiated a series of moves intended to convince the press, Congress and the public that the CIA had gotten out of the news business. But according to Agency officials, Colby had in fact thrown a protective net around his valuable intelligence in the journalistic community. He ordered his deputies to maintain Agency ties with its best journalist contacts while severing formal relationships with many regarded as inactive, relatively unproductive or only marginally important. In reviewing Agency files to comply with Colby’s directive, officials found that many journalists had not performed useful functions for the CIA in years. Such relationships, perhaps as many as a hundred, were terminated between 1973 and 1976.

    Meanwhile, important CIA operatives who had been placed on the staffs of some major newspaper and broadcast outlets were told to resign and become stringers or freelancers, thus enabling Colby to assure concerned editors that members of their staffs were not CIA employees. Colby also feared that some valuable stringer‑operatives might find their covers blown if scrutiny of the Agency’s ties with journalists continued. Some of these individuals were reassigned to jobs on so‑called proprietary publications—foreign periodicals and broadcast outlets secretly funded and staffed by the CIA. Other journalists who had signed formal contracts with the CIA—making them employees of the Agency—were released from their contracts, and asked to continue working under less formal arrangements.

    In November 1973, after many such shifts had been made, Colby told reporters and editors from the New York Times and the Washington Star that the Agency had “some three dozen” American newsmen “on the CIA payroll,” including five who worked for “general‑circulation news organizations.” Yet even while the Senate Intelligence Committee was holding its hearings in 1976, according to high‑level CIA sources, the CIA continued to maintain ties with seventy‑five to ninety journalists of every description—executives, reporters, stringers, photographers, columnists, bureau clerks and members of broadcast technical crews. More than half of these had been moved off CIA contracts and payrolls but they were still bound by other secret agreements with the Agency. According to an unpublished report by the House Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Representative Otis Pike, at least fifteen news organizations were still providing cover for CIA operatives as of 1976.

  46. kievite says:

    While not a career diplomat, in comparison with such experts on foreigh policy as Joe Biden it looks like McFaul might be an improvement (compare with http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-ed-biden28-2009jul28,0,5594672.story )

    Still it looks like McFaul is an adept of of “color revolution” strategy and is pretty close to neo-cons in his views (“export of democracy” type of guy):

    Introduction: Perspectives on the Orange Revolution by anders åslund and michael mcfaul


    Looks like an interesting reading in 2012 especially the part about the role of mass media.

    His paper Myth_of_the_Authoritarian_Model is freely availble fro Stanford and is way too simplisitic and biased for a Professor of political science @ Stanford. Looks like written by Condoleezza Rice (he actually was one of her first students):


    He also wrote several books

    Fragments of several of his books are availble from Google books and Amazon.

    For example:


    BTW larussophobe does not like him :-)


    • yalensis says:

      Great research, @kievite. Yep, McFoul is a rank tool. Sergei Lavrov should have refused to accept his credentials and sent him back where he came from: “Waiter: this steak is rotten! Please get me another one!”

  47. Moscow Exile says:

    Is it within an ambassador’s remit to participate in the internal politics of a sovereign state? The present and previous US ambassador to Russia certainly seem to think it is, as did the previous UK ambassador to Russia, Sir Anthony Russell Brenton, who spoke at a conference organized by “The Other Russia” coalition in late 2006. It was during Brenton’s tenure as British ambassador to Russia when the Russian security service accused four British Embassy employees of using a roadside “spy rock” packed with hi-tech transmitters to communicate with Russian double-agents, an accusation that was immediately ridiculed in the West. It now turns out that the former chief of staff of former British prime minister Blair has recently admitted that the “spy rock” accusations made by the Russians were absolutely true.

    • Dear Moscow Exile,

      The short answer is that it is absolutely not within an ambassador’s legal remit to participate in the internal politics of the host country. That is interference in the internal affairs of another country. That is expressly forbidden by international law and if carried out by a diplomat is conduct incompatible with his duties as a diplomat. A diplomat that behaves in this fashion can be declared persona non grata by the host country and expelled.

      Needless to say the western powers or at any rate the US and the British (and to a certain extent the French) have long since exempted themselves from these rules even though they apply them rigorously to everyone else.

      I would say that in the case of McFaul’s meeting with the opposition leaders a case could be made that all that he did was familiarise him with the political situation in Russia. That is within the remit of a diplomat and is permitted by international law. The Russian ambassador in London for example regularly hosts meetings with opposition politicians at his residence in Kensington. There is however a fundamental difference between meeting opposition leaders to exchange information and meeting opposition leaders to encourage and even plan their activities. The Wikileaks cables showed that US diplomats have no hesitation in doing the second and the same of course is true of British diplomats as well.

      Lastly on the subject of Sir Anthony Russell Brenton, he has become a regular press commentator on Russian affairs taking a consistently hard line anti Putin position. By contrast Sir Rordric Braithwaite who was British Ambassador to Moscow in the early 1980s and who is a diplomat of the old school who would never have conducted himself in such a way always writes about Russia with sympathy and sense and has just written a really good book on the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980s which I would recommend to anyone interested in the subject.

  48. yalensis says:

    Simon Shuster interviews Navalny for Time magazine:


    The interview attracted one comment, by a lady name Shirly Lee:

    I am a young and beautiful woman from US. i just think here is a good place to meet friends. i just wonder if i can meet a rich daddy here, because i am at the beginning of my career and i need someone’s support..iuploaded my hot photos on —-[Mix ed Single.C óM ]—-under the name babylove2011 , maybe you want to check out my photos firstly!.(Mix ed Sin gle.. С’⊙M )-. The website can help you find your lover,So Wonderful !!

    Sounds great, but I cannot find her website! Maybe Simon Shuster can help me?

    • marknesop says:

      Damn; that’s funny. You made me spray chewed oatmeal on my screen, I hope you’re proud of yourself.

      • yalensis says:

        Hey, you can’t make this stuff up!

      • yalensis says:

        Check it out, I left a message for Shirly Lee. She sounds like a great gal, and I respect her for spamming Shuster’s blog! Using my vast Disqus skills, I also clicked on “Like”, so Shirley’s comment now has two “likes”.

        • marknesop says:

          I slogged through that entire adoration-of-Navalny article, and it was hard going, believe me. It seemed to have one purpose and two sub-purposes; the purpose was for Simon Shuster to pitch lazy softballs to Navalny and guide him through the questions westerners want answered. The sub-purposes were to provide a conduit for Navalny to (a) solicit funds (I could do more, but I have no money. I spent it all on vacation in Mexico) and (b) polish “nationalism” so it’s not scary so that he can increase his base of supporters on the premise that hey, he’s a reasonable guy. This is Navalny’s biggest negative so far, and it requires careful management to turn it into a positive.

          I’m wondering how his backers propose to insert Navalny into the presidential election. Because if he isn’t going to run, this is all about nothing. Otherwise, the only hope is to provoke a flash-point incident of violence that will coalesce support around a revolutionary agenda. Once Putin is elected, marginalizing Navalny will be easy. As superhuman as Shuster’s efforts were, Navalny’s audience is still tiny, and some of them are going to drop out soon if he does not take a concrete position.

          • yalensis says:

            I think you hit the nail on the head that one of Shuster’s goals is to address and dispense with Western unease over Navalny’s “nationalist” philosophy, while prepping him for a bigger international role.
            Not to compare Russian “nationalists” with Middle Eastern Islamists, but there is an analogy in this: The West feels that, in order to overthrow unfriendly regimes, it must form alliances with people whom they do not really like (e.g., Russian skinheads, Middle Eastern Wahhabists, etc.). Besides putting a clothespin on their nose, the other thing they need to do is prep the public for these unpalatable alliances. (Although, I have to say, American public does not really need any prepping, they have no clue what is going on abroad, so why even bother with the propaganda?)
            Anyhow, as an example, here is NPR journalist Lourdes Garcia-Navarro. In this piece from a couple of weeks ago she attempts to address Western unease about the Gaddafi overthrow bringing Islamists power in Libya. Garcia-Navarro has always been a bit of a shill for the Islamists, and here she acts sort of like a psychiatrist to Western public, talking it through, addressing their concerns, easing their fears while still prepping them for what she sees as the inevitability of the Islamists, whose time has come:

            Libya’s Islamists are worried about their reception in a country with no history of political parties for 42 years, and relentless propaganda by the Gadhafi regime against them. So, they have been trying to attract other groups to what they are branding a nationalist party and calling the National Assembly.
            The party’s manifesto though was written by one of the leading Islamist figures in Libya, Sheik Ali Sallabi.
            In an extensive interview with NPR, Sallabi said the new party will be inclusive and independent in nature. While Islam and Sharia law will be the basis for any Libyan constitution, he says he looks to models like Malaysia and Turkey instead of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. He talks of a moderate Islam that is open to the outside and democratically minded.
            It’s a speech intended to ease concerns of critics in the West and in Libya. Recent polls show that while Libyans are pious and believe in Islam’s role in society, they are extremely leery of Islamist parties.
            “I think they are going to limit our freedom,” says pharmacist Nouri Ghariyani. “Of course we are Muslim, but not Islamic. It is different; personally I don’t like them.”
            In many street interviews, people from all walks of life reiterated that fear.
            And so Libya’s Islamists are treading gingerly for now, waiting to see if, after 40 years under the shadow of a dictator, they can seize what seems to be their day.

  49. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    Hi guys,
    yesterday I read on RIA Novosti this piece about a “smear” video involving Vladimir Ryzhkov, the subject of this post, using bad language. Can Russian speakers give more details on the video? It isn’t clear to whom the bad language was directed, but knowing the liberasti attitude at insulting their supporters I wouldn’t rule out Ryzhkov introduced some new terms for the “internet hamster”.

    • Evgeny says:


      I guess it’s this video (in Russian):

      One of those guys (Ryzhkov & Gudkov) has used foul speech in regards of Navalny, etc.

      What’s more interesting is why the RIA Novosti is using the definition “Opposition leaders” in regards of those guys.

      Have you heard of Marina Yudenich’es claims of anti-Putin attitude of the RIA? (In Russian)


      • The anti Putin attitude of RIA Novosti has been absolutely obvious to me for some time and I have remarked on it elsewhere especially on Anatoly’s Sublime Oblivion blog. It has been giving time to anti Putin and pro US commentators like Konstantin von Eggert (where does the “von” come from?) for some time but the anti Putin bias has now begun to infect its factual reporting and the cited example seems to be a case in point. I have wondered about this and whether it is another symptom of Medvedev’s attempts to conciliate the opposition by giving them a platform through a major news agency. An alternative explanation is that the Kremlin is permitting RIA Novosti to take an anti government line in order to balance the strong pro government line taken by the far more widely viewed and followed RT. Anyway though I still regularly check the RIA Novosti website for factual reporting and analysis I prefer ITAR TASS and Interfax.

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        Thanks for your answer. Note how the article reports the foul language directed at Navalny as “The video also showed the two politicians discussing plans to distance themselves from Alexei Navalny”.
        I agree with Marina Yudenich and Alexander Mercouris that there is a liberasti attitude in RIA Novosti, which has been going on for quite a long time. Some years ago there was a certain Ian Pryde writing plainly russophobic articles, now there is Konstantin von Eggert along with some others. I too have the feeling that as of late RIA Novosti is even more in the liberasti camp. To my knowledge, it isn’t the only case of a state-owned media outlet entertaining the liberasti view, which I find puzzling.
        Note: I use the term liberasti instead of liberal because the latter term has different meanings in politics. It means leftist views in the USA, denotes a conservative in most of Europe, but the Russian liberals are a species on their own, neither leftist nor conservative.

        • Dear Giuseppe,

          You are of course absolutely right about use of the word “liberal”.

          I ought to say that “liberal” is the third in the series of names these people have called themselves. Back in the 1989 to 1991 they called themselves “the Left” even though no less a person than Gorbachev himself pointed out that they were actually the Right. In the 1990s they called themselves “democrats”, which I always found infuriating since it implied that anyone who disagreed with them was opposed to democracy. As I recall they started to be called and to call themselves “liberals” during Putin’s Presidency.

          A Russian acquaintance I was once met, who is now a successful metals trader and who had formerly supported them, called them “ultra rightists”, which up to a point I think is right. Certainly their extreme position on privatisation and free markets would put them well to the right in most places. However “ultra rightist” could cause confusion with nationalists and fascists and for that reason I think should be avoided.

          On balance and though you make a persuasive case for “liberast” I am going to continue to call them liberals. I do so as a former historian because the word links them to the liberals of the late Tsarist period The attitudes and behaviour of those liberals in many respects and not least in their extreme sense of entitlement were so similar to those of Russian liberals today that I think I am going to stick with the word for the moment.

          • Much as I love the word liberast, I hesitate to use it for two reasons:

            1. To the uninitiated, it makes one come off as a foaming at the mouth pro-Kremlin partisan, which is not an image that is conductive to making a persuasive argument.

            2. It can lead to charges of homophobia (because in Russian pederasty in the vernacular is associated with homosexuals, not so much the English meaning of sex with male children). This can lead Russian liberals into claiming one has an anti gay agenda, despite their own searing hatred for LGBT rights (e.g. main gay rights activist Alexeyev being denied a platform at Bolotnaya and Triumfalnaya).

            There has to be a better word. For the moment, I tend to refer to them as “limousine liberals” or “the Russian liberals” (to emphasize they are neither American lefty liberals nor European social rights liberals).

            • yalensis says:

              If you really want to sound like a foaming Putinite, then call them подпиндосники (“podpindosniki”) !
              Seriously, I like that term better than “liberast” because it does not include, as you remark, the anti-gay connotation.

              • Giuseppe Flavio says:

                Which is the etymology of подпиндосники? I like the liberasti because in Italian it sounds like a mix between liberale and estremisti (extremist).

                • yalensis says:

                  Giuseppe: Etymology of подпиндосники? Ah! That is an extremely interesting political/linguistic question! Unfortunately, a full answer would require a very long essay, requiring pages of footnotes and even allusions to the works of Anton Chekhov.
                  Here is a relatively short answer: the Russian slang word пиндос (“pindos”) is a derogatory ethnic slur for “American”. Nobody really knows the origin of this term(although there are many theories). Apparently the word was used a century ago (and is seen in the works of Anton Chekhov) as a synonym for “foreigner”. There is speculation of Greek origin, maybe referred to ethnic Greeks living in the Crimea. One version says it is the name of a type of Greek pony.
                  In any case, during the Bosnian war of the early 1990’s, Russian peacekeepers stationed in Yugoslavia suddenly and for no apparent reason started referring, in a hostile manner, to American peacekeepers as “pindosi” (which is the plural of “pindos”). If you call an American a “pindos”, that is not a compliment. It implies every bad stereotype about Americans: arrogant, violent, domineering, ignorant, etc.. Derivatives include “Pindostan” (derogatory word for America), USP (United States of Pindostan), and “pod-pindosnik” (somebody who sucks up to the “pindosi”, from the Russian preposition “pod” – “under”).

                • Giuseppe Flavio says:

                  Many thanks for the explanation Yalensis.

      • yalensis says:

        I can’t understand a word they’re saying. KBG must have planted bug too far away in
        noisy restaurant.
        P.S. Who the heck is Gudkov? I never heard of him.

        • yalensis says:

          And I notice that Ryzhkov had to pay for the coffee and snacks. Whoever this Gudkov is, he is a cheap SOB.

        • kievite says:

          I can’t understand a word they’re saying. KBG must have planted bug too far away in
          noisy restaurant.
          P.S. Who the heck is Gudkov? I never heard of him.

          First of all it looks like an internal liberasts dirty games as they fight like rats for power and related currency flows. But this is a bomb almost equal in power to Nemtsov phone calls interceptions. Which means that for a while whole two guys can probably be called “former prominent liberasts politicians”.

          Before this bomb Gudkov (http://gudkov.ru/) was the second man in “Just Russia”. Funny he is a former KGB officer.

          The effect on both “heroes” is very similar to the effect on Nemtsov by his phone recordings where he demonstrated his skills (sometimes very aptly) to characterize his “comrades liberasts” ;-).

          Here this part was present too, but the real bomb was in thier disucssion of coup d’etat against Mironov. They revealed a pretty dirty plan for hijacking “Just Russian”, deposing Mironov and making from it the new “Right cause”.

          As a result Gudkov was pretty close to losing party membership when his betrayal was discussed. Only the fact that they are pretty close to elections permitted him to save his scalp. It is now clear that Just Russia consists on two factions with one minority faction headed by Gudkov being identical to Ryzkov/Nemsov liberasts.

          Another interesting tidbit is that both of them really hate Navalny simply as a political competitor and try to think how to block his attempts to become an opposition leader. And generally to neutralize his growing influence, so that they can preserve their own positions (which now will be pretty difficult to do :-).

          See http://vz.ru/politics/2012/1/18/554423.html

          Несмотря на то что запись и публикация разговора Рыжкова и Гудкова ни с моральной, ни с юридической стороны не могут считаться нормальными, содержание их беседы любопытно, во-первых, идеей отстранения Сергея Миронова от руководства «Справедливой России» (Гудков: «Кому-то в конечном итоге надо будет взять эту партию, возглавить, это я уверяю, и сформировать нормальную, массовую социал-демократическую партию. По нормальному, по европейскому образцу, вот что нужно сделать. А Миронов – это просто игра, он умеет говорить, он научился за эти годы. Но я-то его хорошо знаю, мои выступления, моя программа»), а во-вторых, предложением хоть как-то ограничить влияние Алексея Навального на столичную протестную активность (Рыжков: «Если мы, пять политиков, утрамбуем Серегу Пархоменко, то он возьмет на себя Навального, чтобы он нас не переиграл если вдруг успеют предупредить Быкова и Парфенова, Навальный уже не сможет переиграть»).

          • yalensis says:

            Thanks, @kievite.
            The Vzgliad article mentions that the conversation is of very poor quality and not really audible:

            С возможностью монтажа согласен и генеральный директор Международного института политической экспертизы Евгений Минченко, который в интервью газете ВЗГЛЯД заявил о том, что «на записи ничего не понятно, очень плохое качество, но уголовное дело заводить необходимо».

            And yet somebody was able to extract meaningful content from this noisy tape, which leads me to hypothesize that this someone had access to sophisticated sound technology (like you see in those police movies where they do voice analysis and remove the noise from the background, etc.)
            Also, from the angle of the camera and the occasional glimpse of parts of a guy sitting at the next table, I deduce that he was the one with the hidden camera and microphone.
            He is probably KGB agent, but could also be a pro-Putin amateur, like that Andrew Breitbart/James O’Keefe team in USA who perform similar video stunts for the Republican Party. He was obviously using cheap equipment, could even be just a phone with a video camera. But, again, decoding the noisy content shows some technological sophistication, I believe.
            Returning to the vzgliad article, it concludes that the police have not been involved in this illegal taping, because nobody has submitted any complaints to them.

            • Giuseppe Flavio says:

              Hi Yalensis,
              I can’t say how bad is the audio quality, but there are alternative explanations to the use of high tech. First, with today’s computer you can do a lot, like the kind of analysis that 10 years ago were limited to labs. Second, the guy that shot the video may have heard the conversation much better than what is shown in the video (as you say, it was cheap equipment) and so was able to provide the transcript using both the recorded audio and his memory (and eventually some notes).
              Also, I’d like to make some other hypothesis on the identity of this “mole”. He could be a Navalnyte on a mission to bust “traitors” or an activist from “Fair Russia” (which is Gudkov’s party) that doesn’t like Gudkov. That he is an FSB agent is IMHO the most remote possibility, I think they have better equipment.

  50. kievite says:

    And now Reuters paid legionaries of “info wars” about Gudkov/Ryzkov scandal :-)http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/18/russia-putin-media-idUSL6E8CI3WF20120118

    In an apparent attempt by Putin’s allies to sow discord among protest leaders, a video of politicians plotting against fellow opposition figures and swearing profusely also surfaced on YouTube earlier on Wednesday.

    The clip, recorded via hidden camera and phone tapping techniques reminiscent of Soviet-era KGB surveillance, shows them scheming to sideline one of the protest movement most popular leaders, blogger Alexei Navalny.

    “This material is being used to split the opposition … to create an atmosphere of distrust and mutual suspicion,” said a Just Russia deputy Gennady Gudkov, shown chatting in the video with fellow opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov.

    Last month, a Kremlin-loyal outlet published recordings of another opposition politician’s telephone calls, in which he denigrated supporters, in a sign powerful former spies in Putin’s circle may be acting to undermine the protest movement. (Additional reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Writing by Gleb Bryanski; Editing by Alison Williams)

    • marknesop says:

      Western reporting really is quick to get the jump on the narrative, isn’t it? If you can’t erase it, spin it. Of course this is spider mastermind Putin, in the middle of the great web, pulling strings. You begin to wonder how such a recognizable man as Putin can slip about undetected, filming all these delightful indiscretions; perhaps he’s in disguise, with one of those nose-and-spectacles combinations, or is using his Harry Potter cloak of invisibility.

      It’s also interesting the manner in which the debate is shifted to who might be at the bottom of it, rather than the obvious fact that the two are speaking of Virtual President Navalny in extremely derogatory terms. Especially Ryzhkov, who – for public consumption – pronounced himself thrilled with Navalny’s hoarse screaming onstage (which we learned, courtesy of Simon Shuster, that he does only because he hates Putin so much that he can’t control himself, and not because he’s a nut) and unable to wait for Navalny’s contribution to the next event, of which he is organizer. That sounds a little hypocritical now, doesn’t it? I wonder how Navalny will manage this latest defection? Will he chuckle ruefully and say “The Kremlin is wery bad at wideo-surveillance?”

      Viewers are invited not to speculate on what rogues the “opposition leaders” are for scrabbling in the dirt for power and likely displaying the sort of cutthroat tactics they would employ to remain in power once given it, but to speculate on what rogues the government are for revealing it.

      Imagine a western parallel where that invitation would see broad acceptance. I’m afraid I can’t. Expect a meeting to be called in the woodshed very soon for “opposition leaders” (I say that sarcastically because it seems all you have to do to be one now is say something critical of the government) to reinforce message discipline and sticking to the talking points.

      • There are a lot of points to make here:

        1. Given that much of the opposition denies the legitimacy of the government it is entirely understandable that the FSB is keeping tabs on them. This happens in every country. By way of example it was recently revealed here in Britain that the British police had planted infiltrators in various activist organisations some of whom had gone so far as to have affairs with members of those organisations and to father children on them.

        2. It is also not at all surprising that the FSB or people inside or connected to it might be making discreetly public some of the information that has come to light about the people it is monitoring. Again this happens in many countries. In Britain as the Murdoch scandal has exposed this sort of behaviour lies within the competence of the newspapers who employ what are in effect private intelligence services for that purpose but there is no doubt that newspapers here also receive regular tip offs and information from the intelligence services and the police.

        3. Given the narcissistic nature of Navalny’s personality and the cult like nature of his movement, something we have already discussed, it is not at all surprising that other members of the opposition personally detest him. As I have previously said Navalny is the sort of person who cannot have allies or colleagues but only followers. It is not all surprising that longer established opposition leaders such as Ryzhkov should resent him and I pretty sure the same is true of others like Nemtsov and Kasparov not to mention Yavlinsky with whom Navalny has of course already fallen out. It is in the nature of narcissistic and psychopathic personalities that those who come into contact with them either completely succumb to them or strongly reject them. In Ryzhkov’s case his rejection of Navalny is to his credit.

        4. If Fair Russia were ever taken over by the lberals it would cease to be a socialist party in which case the reason many voted for it would disappear. I understand that there is resistance amongst many politically informed Russians to talk about left and right but if the parliamentary elections have told us anything it is that in Russia these things do matter.

        5. I suggested in any earlier comment that Sergei Mironov was the only Presidential candidate the opposition could support that might have a chance of getting to the second round or even hypothetically of defeating Putin and of then carrying out at least some of the policies the liberals want. It seems that instead of understanding this and supporting Mironov in the election some liberals are instead intent on undermining him. Not surprisingly Mironov’s campaign seems at the moment to be sputtering out. With enemies like these does Putin need friends? Truly he must feel that with the present liberal bunch the US has bought for him the best opposition money can buy.

  51. kievite says:


    • marknesop says:

      Funny and smart, if it’s accurate. I’d be interested to know what steps Russia is taking to protect its foreign holdings abroad against seizure by the west – a favourite regime-change tactic – and their subsequent re-gifting to the opposition.

  52. marknesop says:

    Well, well. Economists at the World Bank warn of a looming global economic downturn that could have a worse effect than the 2008 crash. Developing economies in particular are encouraged to have financing lined up in preparation for the rug being pulled out from under them. Of course, that might not be quite so painful for countries that have large cash reserves to help them ride it out. Or are sitting on lots of something the world has to have no matter how shitty the economy gets; like, say, energy.

    How’s stability looking to you now, Russian protesters who are tired of “settling for stability”? You know, the interesting thing about stability is the way that, when it starts to look like stagnation for you, all it takes to make it look like stability again is to have stability taken away from the rest of the world.

    • Seizing Russia’s foreign assets would be a very dangerous thing to do given that Russia could retaliate by cutting off gas supplies and or the supply route to Afghanistan. That does not mean of course that such a thing could not happen.

      • marknesop says:

        Yes, that’s a good point; I hadn’t thought of that. When Libya’s assets were seized and gifted to the opposition her output had already stopped and the deficiency was essentially compensated for. But she’s a small-scale producer, while Russia is the world’s largest.

  53. apc27 says:

    Dear Mark,

    With 250+ comments for this post, its becoming quiet difficult to follow the discussion. Maybe you could write a new post, even if it is a short one, or do something else?

    The comments section for wordpress, it seems, have not been designed to handle that number of comments, without becoming confusing and incoherent.

    • marknesop says:

      Hi, Alex; I totally agree, but I have been so busy lately I barely have time to read the comments and occasionally respond, never mind come up with something new. The general subject we’re discussing – the upcoming election and the dynamics simmering beneath the surface – is extremely interesting to me, but it’s too broad a subject to cover overall in something as short as a blog post. Is there something that stands out in your mind or that you have read that you think would make a good post? I’ve gotten great inspiration in the past from suggestions from cartman, sinotibetan, yalensis and others, and as I implied, I don’t have much free time at the moment to search for material. Also, I’ll be on a course next week, further redirecting my attention.

      • yalensis says:

        If only the KGB would show some mercy and furlough kovane from his Lubyanka gig, then he could write a new post for us to pounce on!

        • marknesop says:

          Be careful; you’re starting to sound like a volunteer yourself! Got anything?

          • yalensis says:

            No, but I had an idea: how about a post on why Russian politicians swear so much? Nemtsov is the master, of course, but Ryzhkov has shown himself to be no slouch. And Putin himself is known for his “salty” tongue!

      • Evgeny says:

        Hello, Mark.

        Some links to the recent press:



        • marknesop says:

          I can see even before I’ve read through them all that there is some great stuff here, Evgeny; thanks very much!! Wow, the Akunin piece is going to be a classic in a couple of years. He believes he “and others like him” are “a clear majority” in Moscow!!! Does he even know how many people live there? He believes Putin will fall quickly, but he hopes not too soon; not before he loses every bit of popularity, until even his mother (if she’s still alive) says, “Get out of here, Volodya, it makes me sick to look at you!!!” This is a brilliant display of hedging your bets; no matter what happens, Akunin predicted it. If Putin stays for another 12 years, it’s only because he’s not quite unpopular enough yet.

          My wife likes Akunin’s crime fiction, but I think he is missing a lucrative sideline if he does not try comedy.

          • Dear Mark,

            Akunin’s comments about Russian politics and his devotion to Khodorkovsky are for me good examples of the stupidity to which a clever man can fall to. Putin by the way has just suggested that the reason Akunin has become so critical of him is because Akunin who is of Georgian ancestry cannot forgive Putin for Georgia’s defeat in the 2008 war.

            I too enjoy Akunin’s crime fiction but I think the Fandorin stories at least have started to suffer from a distinct falling off of quality as the series progresses. Also Akunin though supposedly a Japan expert has a remarkably false and stereotypical view of Japanese culture judging by how he presents it in his books. I speak from knowledge here since at one time I had to work for many Japanese clients and a practising Japanese lawyer remains a close friend.

            • marknesop says:

              In a piece published by The Power Vertical, Akunin appeared disproportionately angry at Putin for suggesting he bore a grudge owing to the 2008 war with Georgia. While other sources crowed triumphantly that Putin had “played the Georgia card” (implying Putin is a racist because he brought it up, just another contribution to the Putin-is-desperate-and-will-do-anything-to-cling-to-power theme), Akunin sighed that Putin learned to smear his opponents in KGB school, that this is how he operates.

              Let me ask you this, because I’m curious; how long do you have to be out of a profession before people stop relating everything you do to it? Vladimir Putin finished KGB school 36 years ago. He has been out of the KGB for 20 years, and has been involved in politics for years longer than he was in the KGB. Yet this continues to define him.

              When Silvio Berlusconi cried while he listened to Bibi Netanyahu pay tribute to his mother, did people say, “Oh, he’s so emotional – what do you expect from a cruise-ship singer“? When Tony Blair cited bogus weapons data to get the British onside with America’s desert adventure in Iraq, did people say later, “Well, of course he doesn’t know anything about foreign policy; he’s only a rock musician“?

              I have to wonder how Georgian Akunin is, anyway – he’s lived in Russia since he was two years old. I seem to recall experts being confident that we have no memories at all as adults of anything that happened before we were 3 or so.

              • yalensis says:

                Well, Putin’s allusion to Akunin’s ethnicity is definitely a political shot across the bow and could very well be an unfair dig. If I were Akunin, I would have addressed this directly: “Well, for sure, I am an ethnic Gruzian. But my loyalty is to Russia. I was a rabid supporter of the Russian army in the 2008 conflict.”
                Or, conversely: “I am mostly a loyal Russian, but in this particular war I supported Saakashvili, because he is a beacon of democracy.”
                But Akunin did not address Putin’s sly dig or specify which side he supported in 2008. If he wants to participate in Russian politics, seems like he would need to clarify this, especially now that his opponent (Putin) has raised the issue.

                • hoct says:

                  It is certainly poor form coming from Putin. You can not at the same time promote civic Rossian identity as something surpassing ethnic national identity and question someone’s loyalty simply on the account of their ethnic nationality, without any evidence they are less than perfect Rossians (on the other side of a valid inter-Rossian disagreement).

                  When Akunin says his being of Georgian ethnic nationality does not preclude him from Russia being his country and does not make him an enemy of Russia he is only saying something Putin has been adamant about for years. It is poor form of Putin to switch around and raise doubt about Rossianism of non-Russians when convenient.

                • marknesop says:

                  That is an excellent point, and if Putin has a fault it’s that he doesn’t listen to his own image managers – especially at a time when the liberals are parsing everything that leaves his lips for the explosive wedge issue that will unite the electorate against him. But Putin seems impervious to this and continues to drop crude clangers that only assist his enemies in their characterization efforts. The condom thing was just stupid, there were so many ways to disparage the white ribbon emblem without going there.

                  That said, Akunin did not make the most of his opening as you describe; to the best of my understanding, he allowed his own temper to get the better of him and fired off an angry rejoinder about Putin smearing him in the manner he learned in KGB school.

                  Opportunities lost by both camps. I don’t know that Putin was trying to needle Akunin, and I don’t think his comment was that explosive unless I misunderstood it – he merely said Akunin couldn’t have been happy with Russia’s actions against Georgia in 2008. If delivered cleverly, it would actually be pretty smart, because Russians who think Russia should have backed off and let Saakashvili claim a victory are few and far between, and it would have put Akunin at odds with popular opinion. But if Akunin had come back gently and sorrowfully, proclaiming his incontestable right to be recognized as Russian, he would have scored a telling blow and the whole thing would likely have rebounded to Putin’s discredit.

                  Putin needs to have everything he says videotaped for a couple of weeks, and review it each day so he can learn to be a bit more diplomatic. I fully agree with his taking a hard line with the west, because the west has earned it. But he missed a good chance to cast Akunin as not so different from himself, and thus to remove much of the barb from Akunin’s future challenges.

                • Actually Putin heads an ethnically fairly diverse government. The Economics Minister (Naibullina) and the Interior Minister (Nurgaliyev) are Tatars, the Foreign Minister (Lavrov) is partly Armenian and the head of the SVR and former Prime Minister (Fradkov) is partly Jewish. The previous Economics Minister (Gref) is German. Primakov, the previous Prime Minister and spy chief who is now politically close to Putin is Jewish. People in the west who harp on about the supposed ethnic nationalism of Russians should note this and the fact that the ethnic diversity of the government has never in Russia been a political issue.

                  As I understand it whilst the Georgian diaspora in Russia initially strongly backed Saakashvili it no longer does so. At the time when Saakashvili was arresting and publicly humiliating Russian soldiers who at that time still had a base in Georgia in what amounted to a hostage incident (I think this was in 2006) there were some officially directed retaliatory measures taken against Georgians in Russia and I vaguely remember reading that Akunin who at that time was apolitical was on the receiving end of some of them. If so then I suspect that it was that event rather than the 2008 war that might have radicalised him. By contrast it is very striking that after the 2008 war there seems to have been no hostility directed against the very large Georgian diaspora living in Russia at all. I am not aware of a single incident. Had there been one can be sure that Saakashvili would have trumpeted it as loudly as possible and that the western media would have gleefully joined in. To my mind this is yet further evidence of a point that I repeatedly make and which western commentary repeatedly gets wrong, which is that contrary to the image of Russians as racist and xenophobic and extremely nationalistic they are on the contrary a very tolerant people.

                • yalensis says:

                  To play devil’s advocate:
                  I think Putin’s shot at Akunin might be a smart political move. It is slightly Karl Rove-ian, but not completely sleazy. It is a “dog whistle” gambit, true, but I don’t see it as necessarily racist. This gambit helps to discredit pro-Western Opposition by forcing them to state exactly where they stand on the 2008 war. I suspect that the vast majority of Oppositionists in fact secretly support Saakashvili. They probably compose toasts to him in their private conclaves. That is their right. But since they seek to gain power and put themselves in the Kremlin, then they need to clarify this with the Russian electorate, who are majority patriotic and supported Russian side in 2008 war.
                  Like I said above, Akunin cannot dance around this issue, he must state his opinion. It is not his genetic ethnicity that is under attack, that would be unfair. It is his stand on the 2008 war. My advice to him: Don’t beat around the bush. Be authentic and tell the Russian public exactly how you feel about that war. Then let them decide whether or not they want to seat you and your cohorts in those big chairs inside the Kremlin.

            • Giuseppe Flavio says:

              Dear Alexander,
              can you suggest me some book about Japanese culture? I’m an avid watcher of Japanese movies, with time I’ve learned a few things on Japan, but I still lack a systematic knowledge.

  54. Looks like Italy has become fair game for the British media.

    My commiserations, Giuseppe.

    • marknesop says:

      I think everybody knew Sylvio Berlusconi was a buffoon, and I never liked him; I was stunned when Italy re-elected him after I thought he was gone for good. But I never think of Sylvio Berlusconi when someone says “Italian man”.

      I think of Cirro Tufo, the only real Italian man I ever met (by which I mean he was actually born in Italy and lived there all his life; I’ve met plenty of Italian-Americans and Italian-Canadians). I met him on a course in HMS DRYAD in the early 2000’s, in England, which was taught and hosted by the Navy but was actually subordinate to the RAF. I was one of four Canadians, but the only one from the Navy; the rest were Air Force. There was one Royal Navy, and not even really a sailor; he was an HAS-3 Lynx pilot, and the rest of the Brits were RAF. And Cirro. Cirro was a fighter pilot, flying the Panavia Tornado IDS. He was ridiculously handsome, but we never realized how outclassed we were until the first night we got together for a pub crawl. Cirro’s clothes had the casual elegance of a Giorgio Armani magazine ad, and his shoes looked like they cost more than our combined monthly income. In comparison, we looked like a bunch of farmers who had stopped for a quick dip in the river on our way into town and then just picked clothes from the pile at random. And it went without saying that no sissies flung a 30-ton aircraft around at over 900 mph when you could almost feel the daisies ticking off the belly; Cirro’s specialty was ground attack, and he had either just started or was pretty good at it, because he was still alive.

      The only attention we got from the Portsmouth girls was requests to be helped up from those who had gotten trampled in the rush for Cirro. That’s who I think of when someone mentions Italian men. I think most people realize the cruise-ship Captain wasn’t typical of Italian manhood. She’s right that Berlusconi was an embarrassment, and so is the cruise-ship captain. Wrong to draw any further associations, though.

    • Giuseppe Flavio says:

      Nothing new, we and a lot of other countries have been fair game for the British media since a long time. By fair game I mean the attitude that when something bad happens in Italy (or Greece, or Russia, etc.) it is because we’re not British enough. In the case of Russia this attitude reaches its paranoid peak.
      But I’ve to add something in defence of the British people. For each country their media smears, those writing the maddest things often are not British but from the targeted country, like Cristina Odone.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Like this contributor to the London Review of Books, Peter Pomerantsev, a British TV producer of obvious Russian ancestry who clearly thinks that the sun shines out of Khodorkovsky’s arse.

        See: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n20/peter-pomerantsev/putins-rasputin

        Pomerantsev also contributes to an organization known as the Committee for Russian Economic Freedom, where he writes: “The usual way to get jobs in Russia is not by impressing at an interview, but buy what is known as blat – “connections”. Russian society isn’t much interested in the hard-working, brilliant young business mind. Everyone knows where that type ends up: in jail like Mikhail Khodorkovsky, or in exile like the mobile phone billionaire Yevgeny Chichvarkin. ”

        See: http://russianeconomicfreedom.org/tag/peter-pomerantsev/

        • Moscow Exile says:

          That “buy” instead of “by” in the above quote from Pomarantsev’s economic freedom article might simply be a typo or might indicate that Peter is, in fact, a Russian who has fixed himself up with a nice job with the BBC whence he can throw the shit at his mother country.

        • Giuseppe Flavio says:

          I’ve noticed that many (luckily not all) Italian emigrants hold a grudge against Italy, like someone that was abandoned in his childhood by his parents for no reason. Whatever they achieve in the country were they moved (generally a low-middle class status) is seen as a sort of “revenge” for being abandoned. This grudge becomes more acute when they come back to visit their relatives and realise that Italy isn’t anymore the poor hellhole they left after the war. At this point they realise that their revenge is dud, so they react by downplaying everything Italian and blowing out of proportion their achievements or outright inventing them. Probably, something similar happens with Russian emigrants.

      • yalensis says:

        That article is so unfair. Everybody who has met any Italians knows that they are wonderful, caring people. That cruise ship captain is simply an anomaly.

      • The British media has always been dismissive of Italy and this article is no different. It is by the equally dismissive of France. Of the important European states only Germany and Sweden receive grudging respect.

        In the case of Italy I would however say that the view of ordinary Britons is completely different. I have never met a single Briton who has been to Italy who does not love the place and who does not admire Italians for their culture and panache. In fact amongst Britons the image of Italy and of Italians is overwhelmingly positive. One of my lawyer friends gave up her whole career and sold her house to go to live there with her British husband.

        By the way on the subject of Berlusconi, Luke Harding a.k.a. Tintin on the occasion when I recently met him was sounding off about how Berlusconi had been “bought” by Putin and was to all intents and purposes an agent of the Kremlin. Presumably in the fevered imagination of Luke Harding at least Putin is responsible for Italy’s problems as well.

    • Giuseppe Flavio says:

      Speaking of Italy’s image in foreign media, how many of you have heard about the truck drivers strike started in Sicily last week and that is extending to all of Italy now? It’s not just the truck drivers, it involves the fishing industry, taxi drivers, and other categories. The truck drivers are the strongest among the protester, because 86% of goods transport is on truck and they don’t refrain from using their vehicles to make road blocks.

  55. yalensis says:

    “Twitter revolution” – this piece by @antireb was posted last June, during Libya war:


    He did some research showing how NATO was using agents on the ground to locate and bomb targets in Libya. In a link within that story @antireb gives many examples of specific tweets and specific Twitter avatars who identified specific targets and coordinates:


    This jibes with what I was reading on Al Jazeera during Libya war: their Libya Live Blog was full of many pro-Rabble posters who claimed to be using both the AJ blog and Twitter to convey bombing and other logistical information to NATO. All of this was done in the clear, with no encryption.
    Note to Russia: If ever invaded by NATO, try to figure out a way to shut down Twitter. Otherwise hamsters with iPhones will be scurrying everywhere identifying where are heading Russian tank formations, etc. and tweeting that info to NATO bombers.
    Well, NATO thinks they are hot shots because they have this new-fangled internet technology. But it is like invention of long-bow: it gives you temporary advantage, but sooner or later everybody has it.

  56. kievite says:

    A couple of interesting news:

    1. Critics demand high treason trial for Gorbachev and collected funds necessary for starting of the process


    2. Prokhorov smoked something really strong and declared that he was hungry during his childhood (his father was the head of international department of GlavComSport of this USSR (so a part of nomenklatura); the only thing that might be limited in his house was probably caviar, althouth I doubt even about that) and used to have a dream to get to the place with plentiful food and eat all of it. Which in a sense has happened as he appropriated a lot assets during Yeltsin privatization :-)



    3. Blowback from the meeting of opposition at the embassy.


    4. Looks like Maria Gaidar might be involved in the auto accident in which a 12-years old girl was killed.


  57. yalensis says:

    Tagline: “Makaka and iPhone”
    On her way into U.S. Embassy…
    Girl: “Evgenia, why are you going to visit American ambassador?”
    Chirikova: “I am going to him because we (in Russia) need the rule of law.”
    On her way out of U.S. Embassy…
    WTF! A very feisty Chirikova loses her temper: confronts and almost gets into catfight with the Nashist:

    @kievite is right, all this B.S. is creating a backlash among ordinary Russians (=the silent majority). The more they see how these “podpindosniki” operate, the higher goes Putin’s popularity rating!

    • marknesop says:

      Chirikova: “I am going to him because we (in Russia) need the rule of law.”

      Yes, because everybody knows Russian legal reform is written by the American ambassador. And you want the rule of law except when you decide to hold a demonstration without a permit, so as to draw attention to your right to disregard laws you don’t like as long as you are agitating for adherence to laws you do like.

  58. Moscow Exile says:

    – Evgeniya, tell me, please, why you have come to the US embassy.
    — I’m going so that the law will work. And in the end – *in the end* – it shall work.

    What a cocky, arrogant little traitoress she is!

    Does she really believe that the USA , at her and her associates’ request, could and, indeed, should introduce the rule of law in the Russsian Federation? And if so, how? By fiat? From a foreign state? This is, after all, how the rule of law was introduced in Germany – in 1945 by the allied forces in each of the occupation zones, in which zones the rule of law reflected the custom and practice of the occupying power.

    Does this arrogant woman really believe that her fellow Russian citizens in general want the rule of law, no matter how right and noble that rule might be, imposed upon them by a foreign power?

    Does she really believe that the Russian people are incapable of doing this for themselves, namely the creation of their own “Rechtsstaat” from within, a rule of law that has been created by the people, for the people and not by the representatives of a foreign power, which representatives’ first duty is to promote the interests of their own state, or, more acurately, the ruling class of their own state?

    Does this objectionable woman really have such contempt for her own people that she feels that only she and her grovelling ilk can, with the help of the United States of America, save the Russians from themselves?

    I think she does. I think she and the rest of her traitorous crew hold their own folk in such contempt that they think that they, and only they, know what’s best for their fellow citizens; that apart from themselves, Russian citizens are just so many childish, vulgar dolts that don’t know what is best for themselves.

    I really do hope that the above clip goes viral and that Chirikova and her fellow runners’ contemptuous attitude towards the Russian people at large is revealed to all.

    • She impresses me as an intelligent and attractive young woman who is completely out of her political depth and who has become drunk with excitement at the attention she is getting. Notice how she is constantly photographing everything and everyone on her mobile phone as if she can’t quite believe that all this is happening to her.

      Frankly I think she is a classic case of someone who possibly starts out with genuinely good intentions as in her original environmentalist protests but who is now in well over her head and does not realise the extent to which she is being manipulated by people who are cleverer and more ruthless than she is.

      Incidentally I may be wrong but I get the impression that the self appointed leaders of the radical non system opposition are not only homophobic but also extremely sexist and do not take women at alll seriously, Nemtsov’s spicy comments about Chirikova being a case in point. Not only are the leaders of the non system opposition entirely men but they have shown no interest at all in any of the sort of issues that concern women such as child care, domestic violence etc. Contrast also the likes of Chirikova with Nabuillina the present Economics Minister or Savitskaya amongst the Communists.

      • marknesop says:

        Once again, if I had seen your comment first I would not have submitted one; I can see we are in complete accord on this.

      • yalensis says:

        Perceptive comment, Alexander. And this is where I have to be somewhat critical of my fellow Russians and admit that sexism (and homophobia, which is a variant of sexism) are rampant (and have always been rampant) in Russian culture. In this sense Russians are still somewhat barbaric compared to Western Europeans. But that is changing, and I hope will continue to improve, slowly but surely. Much-maligned USSR deserves a lot of credit for raising status of Russian women (based on core ideology of Marx/Engels, who promoted women’s lib) and also serving as model for Western European social democracies.
        Still, you do see the oppositionists’ complete disdain for women, Nemtsov’s vulgar language about Chirikova, and so on. She does deserve criticism, but not sexual abuse. But, on the other hand, she is clearly in WAY over her head. She is intelligent, attractive woman with a life ahead of her, which she may have thrown away, out of internal anger and external manipulation. The American puppet-masters have flattered her, spun her head around and made her believe she is something that she is not: a political leader equal to Putin. This will probably not end well for her.

    • marknesop says:

      Chirikova is simply full of herself as a result of being catapulted overnight from a marginalized tree-hugging environmentalist to a “major opposition leader” by virtue of the staged hand-holding and eye-gazing making up with Boris Nemtsov on TV following his disparaging remarks about her being made public. RFE/RL rhapsodized about the nobility embodied in “these two attractive young people”, how they could forgive and forget, and get past their differences for the sake of the common good. Naturally this was maddeningly played up in the western press as yet another example of one of Putin’s dirty tricks (hacking Nemtsov’s cell phone) blowing up in his face, and clever, “with it” Russian youth who are “wery good at internet” (figuratively speaking, since it had little to do with the internet) shunting this ossified old fool into the dustbin of history.

      Largely as a result of this barrage of flattery, Chirikova sees herself as very much in the forefront of international affairs, a mover and shaper of future events and a key player in the soon-to-be new look of Russia. The liberals will put up with her for now because it plainly irritates Putin’s supporters, and their constituency is so small that even bringing in the environmentalists will swell it a little.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        “Full of herself” is exactly the term I would use as well to describe Chirikova. Having undergone an amazing metamorphosis from a Khimki Forest tree-hugger to a leading member of “the opposition”, she mockingly grins and smiles at those outside who are photographing her, whilst she responds by taking photographs of them, as though she were saying: “You can do what you like, because I am safe within the confines of the US embassy and you are powerless; so click away, fools!”

        Her attitude changes profoundly and understandably, though, when she is away from the security of the embassy.

        I should like to point out that in response to the question posed to Chirikova as she is about to enter the US embassy, namely: “Evgeniya, tell me please what you have come to the US embassy today for”, she does not reply: “I am going to him because we (in Russia) need the rule of law.” She says: “I am going so that the law will work”. She then finger-waggingly concludes by stressing twice: “And in the end – in the end – it [the law] shall work!” (Я иду для того, чтобы закон работал. И наконец-то, наконец-то, он будет работать.)

        She says nothing of the need for the rule of law in Russia or the Russian people’s need for a rule of law, although this is what she may believe. But in her anger – and she appears to be so at having had what she believes to have been such an impudent question posed to her – she says that there will be law in Russia as a result of her visit.

        So what is she saying? Is she saying that only with the help of the USA will the rule of law be imposed in Russia? Is she saying that she believes that the USA can and will impose the rule of law in Russia at her and her confederates’ request? Is she saying that is what she and her ilk desire, namely that a foreign power intervene in the internal policies of another sovereign state, a sovereign state of which she is also a citizen? Does she believe that with the help of the USA she and her friends can make amendments to the Russian constitution, or rewrite it altogether?

        Why do she and her friends believe that it is right to request off a foreign power that help be given to make changes in the law of the sovereign state that is the Russian Federation? Do not she and her colleagues not realize that their actions smack of treason?

        • yalensis says:

          @Exile: Thanks for correction of my translation about “rule of law” versus “law working”. Either way, I guess it means that Chirikova is expecting Americans to write laws for Russians to live by.
          In her blog (link posted by @kievite above), Chirikova fielded a question relating to her statement that it was okay to “use” America to help overthrow power in Russia. Question posed: was it okay during Great Patriotic War for Russian collaborators to help Nazi invaders? Chirikova replies that she cannot stand in judgement over such collaborators, because they may have had relatives sent to the GULAG, etc.
          Well, tell that to the memory of Nina Kosterina, a teenage Soviet partisan who bravely fought against Nazi invaders (and was killed by them) despite the fact that her father, Alexei Kosterin, was sent by Stalin to GULAG.
          Actually, it is wonderful that Chirikova has a blog and freely unleashes her tongue. The more she writes, the more she damns herself.

  59. Moscow Exile says:

    I think her earlier photographing was more of a case of her getting back at the Nashi members and others who were taking photo and video shots of her and her entourage through the embassy windows that give a view onto the walkway that leads from the security gate to the building entrance. This was reported in newspaper articles concerning the “opposition” visit to the US embassy last Tuesday (January 17th); her snapshots taken through the embassy windows in the direction of those who were photographing her from the street were a kind of tit-for-tat reaction.

    However, after her chinwag with McFaul had taken place, she clearly became somewhat angry and then frightened as she walked with her male companion and, apparently, no one else through a subway whilst being followed by someone with a video camera and, no doubt, several others, who were most probably Nashi members and who very likely taking photographs of her as well. Again, she responded by taking, our pretending to take, photographs of those who were following her. And her anger turned to fear as she hurried away with her companion, whereas earlier, when she felt secure behind the embassy winows, she was laughing and smiling at her tormentors.

    I agree entirely with Alexander’s statement that Chirikova is a person who possibly started out with genuinely good intentions, as were displayed in her original environmentalist protests over the Khimki Forest motorway project, but now she appears to be well out of her depth and is more than likely being manipulated by people who are cleverer and more ruthless than she is without her realising it. I also suspect that her manipulators possibly only consider her role to be that of a young, token female.

    • yalensis says:

      I can even see why she might have felt intimidated when the Nashisti followed her into the subway. Maybe she feared she was going to get a beating, in which case going on the offensive was the correct tactic for her. There is way too much room for violence in all of this. On the other hand, my sympathy for her only goes so far: she not deserve to be beaten or abused; but she IS a traitor, after all, and it is perfectly acceptable to photograph her and document her treasonous activities.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        For sure she had good reason to have been in fear of criminal assault whilst being openly harassed by some people who more than likely may have been members of Nashi and amongst whom there may have probably been more than one hothead of a criminal disposition who strongly objected to her political actions. I do not, however, condone in any way such violence that might have been meeted out to Chirikova during that tense situation that was filmed in the subway after her meeting with McFaul, not least because she is a woman, but chiefly because such an act would have been criminal and would only have served to strengthen this, in my opinion, naively foolish woman’s traitorous behaviour in the eyes of many, and would have served only as yet more grist to the never ceasing anti-Putin propaganda mill of the Western news media.

        Howevever. I should like to point out the criminally violent behaviour that one of Nemtsov’s aides openly perpetrated not so long ago in Moscow as a result of his boss’s harassment by a Nashi youth. (See below.)

        In the video clip, the young man who received a beating, presumably because he had had the temerity to repeatedly press embarassing questions upon Nemtsov, looks as though he were barely six stone wringing wet. Whilst he is being assaulted, Nemtsov nonchalantly continues with his PR exercise signing his books on Pushkin Square. People protest about Nemtsov’s hired thug’s action. The police arrive.

        As far as I am aware, this incident received no press coverage in the West, nor were Nemtsov or his goon charged as a result of this assault, which criminal act, of course, would not have justified any attack that might have been made upon Chirikova in the subway on January 17th, though the Western media constantly portrays Nashi as though that organization were akin to the Hitlerjugend.

        • yalensis says:

          Right. The last thing Putiin’s supporters need is to turn Chirikova into a martyr. So Nashi youth should lay off her. Re. Nemtsov goon video – it somehow got invisible above. I have seen it before, though. Makes you wonder about Nemtsov. Did he notice that the kid was getting beaten up? He could have said something like, ‘”Hey guys, stop hitting him.” Maybe he didn’t notice, though. It is possible to be right in the middle of something and not have a clue what is going on. (Happens to me all the time.) Why police find that eye witness testimony is useless.

  60. kievite says:

    Interesting, “who might benefit” style of analysis. If I remember correctly Saddam Hussein switched currency for oil transcations from dollar to euro a couple of years before being deposed. Iran also no longer uses dollars for oil transactions.


    Why Putin?

    The salient question is why Putin at this point? We need not look far for the answer. Washington and especially Barack Obama’s Administration don’t give a hoot about whether Russia is democratic or not. Their concern is the obstacle to Washington’s plans for Full Spectrum Dominance of the planet that a Putin Presidency will represent. According to the Russian Constitution, the President of the Russian Federation head of state, supreme commander-in-chief and holder of the highest office in the Russian Federation. He will take direct control of defense and foreign policy.

    We must ask what policy? Clearly strong countermeasures against the blatant NATO encirclement of Russia with Washington’s dangerous ballistic missile installations around Russia will be high on Putin’s agenda. Hillary Clinton’s “reset” will be in the dustbin if it is not already. We can also expect a more aggressive use of Russia’s energy card with pipeline diplomacy to deepen economic ties between European NATO members such as Germany, France and Italy, ultimately weakening the EU support for aggressive NATO measures against Russia. We can expect a deepening of Russia’s turn towards Eurasia, especially with China, Iran and perhaps India to firm up the shaky spine of resistance to Washington’s New World Order plans.

    It will take more than a few demonstrations in sub-freezing weather in Moscow and St. Petersburg by a gaggle of corrupt or shady opposition figures such as Nemtsov or Kasparov to derail Russia. What is clear is that Washington is pushing on all fronts—Iran and Syria, where Russia has a vital naval port, on China, now on Russia, and on the Eurozone countries led by Germany. It has the smell of an end-game attempt by a declining superpower.

    The United States today is a de facto bankrupt nuclear superpower. The reserve currency role of the dollar is being challenged as never since Bretton Woods in 1944. That role along with maintaining the United States as the world’s unchallenged military power have been the basis of the American Century hegemony since 1945.

    Weakening the role of the dollar in international trade and ultimately as reserve currency, China is now settling trade with Japan in bilateral currencies, side-stepping the dollar. Russia is implementing similar steps with her major trade partners. The primary reason Washington launched a full-scale currency war against the Euro in late 2009 was to preempt a growing threat that China and others would turn away from the dollar to the Euro as reserve currency. That is no small matter. In effect Washington finances its foreign wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and elsewhere through the fact that China and other trade surplus nations invest their surplus trade dollars in US government Treasury debt. Were that to shift significantly, US interest rates would rise substantially and the financial pressures on Washington would become immense.

    Faced with growing erosion of her unchallenged global status as sole superpower, Washington appears now to be turning increasingly to raw military force to hold that. For that to succeed Russia must be neutralized along with China and Iran. This will be the prime agenda of whoever is next US President.

    • yalensis says:

      Sidebar on possible war American attack against Iran:
      American navy has announced they will use trained dolphins to clear the Straight of Hormuz in the event the Iranians shut it down with mines.
      I want to stipulate that I am a HUGE animal lover, and even believe in animal rights, to a certain degree. And, let’s admit it, dolphins are the cutest little critters that god ever created.
      Having said that, here is my advice to Iran: If you are faced with hostile dolphins and you need to find a way to fight them… Hint: dolphins, like whales, can be disabled by powerful blasts of sonar, for example from submarines. Excessive sonar disrupts their internal organs and causes them to beach themselves.

  61. kievite says:

    Chirikova political platform:


    Looks like she is really extremly naive girl…

    • yalensis says:

      One blog commenter asks Chirikova the usual question, what was she doing at American Embassy and what did she mean by her remark that she was “using” Americans in the cause of Russian ecological concerns?
      Chirikova replies (Jan. 20, 8:19 UTC) that the meeting with McFaul was all normal, routine, and then posts the following extremely damning link as further clarification:

      The (ecological activist) also commented [to McFaul] that since Putin is from the KGB, then it is not possible to compromise with him, he will never concede (anything) and only respects force. “So the USA should exert their force and help us,” said Chirikova. They should pass the Magnitsky law….” (etc.)

      In the course of the blog, and in response to commenters, Chirikova lays out her political platform, such as it is: she proposes forcible removal of Putin (with American help, if necessary), the break-up of Russian Federation into loose confederation of republics with local rule, transfer of capital from Moscow to Urals, kick Chechnya out of Federation. This is the only possible way to save the Khimki Forest! No surprise that McFaul is extremely interested in her ideas. ‘Cause he really care a lot about the Khimki Forest. Keeps him up at night.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        From The Moscow News (20-23 Jan 2012):

        “When asked about the meeting [with McFaul] being used against them, the activists downplayed the seriousness of the rhetoric.

        ‘They are paranoid and sick’, Boris Nemtsov told The Moscow News. ‘What’s the problem? It’s a normal meeting. I’ve known McFaul for a long time. Those people who went to [opposition rallies on] Bolotnaya Square and Prospect Sakharova are smart enough to understand.’

        Kanayev [president of the Russian Federation of Car Owners] distanced himself from the political opposition, insisting that he came to the meeting as a public activist, not a political one.

        ‘I don’t think that America will save Russia’, Kanayev said. ‘I think the intention of the ambassador to meet with civil society is a good thing. Putin didn’t invite us. The ambassador did.’

        In contrast, Yevgania Chirikova did not deny that she was seeking U.S. help – and complained to McFaul that people were insulted that Putin had alleged they had been paid to go to rallies.

        Asked whether she was concerned the meeting could be misinterpreted and used to discredit her movement, she said she was not.

        ‘I came to talk about the situation in Russia and about the importance of [the U.S.] adopting the Magintsky Act’, Chirikova told The Moscow News, referring to a bill named after the Hermitage lawyer Sergei Magintsky, who died in pre-trial detention in 2009. ‘I said it was important to stop corruption. The act will make it possible to freeze assets of corrupt officials abroad…who steal our country’s resources.’

        Chirikova had also Tweeted on Tuesday that ‘if it’s possible to use America in the fight against…Putin, who are stealing our country’s resources, then it needs to be done!’

        Chirikova explained that this referred to her support of the Magintsky Act, which ‘could serve as log (sic) to beat our corrupt officials with’.”

        • marknesop says:

          Is Chirikova aware of who the individuals are who are on the Magnitsky List? Does she somehow think everyone in Russia who is involved with corruption is on it? It is everyone who can be connected – however remotely – with Magnitsky’s death, as well as their spouses and children. Developers and construction companies who wanted to ram a road through the Khimki Forest had nothing to do with Magnitsky’s death. People who pocket the money intended to fix crumbling infrastructure? Not on it. Inspectors who will not pass completed projects until they get a little sugar from the builder? Not on it. Virtually nobody who Chirikova could name off the top of her head as corrupt is actually on the Magnitsky list, so freezing of corrupt officials’ wealth abroad is not going to be broadly effective if it depends on the Magnitskty List.

          But the western press doubtless loves her grandstanding, recognizing it for the political model we all know and love.

    • kievite says:

      It was me who was naive. She is really like Nemstov aply said ” mraz’ “:

      • yalensis says:

        Yeah, I have been out of touch too, I have been so focused on Navalny, and all this time I thought Chirikova was just some simple peasant girl living under a tree in the enchanted forest, whose recent meeting with Svengali McFaul launched her into overnight stardom. Turns out she has been a busy little beaver this past year and while nobody was noticing, Americans have been slying grooming her to be leader of whole Opposition, replacing Boris Nemtsov. (I think the day will come when we will all miss Boris!)
        Last April Chirikova travelled to Brussels to make her pitch to EU leaders:


        Then in September she travelled to USA to meet with a group of U.S. Senators (I have not been able to find out which ones, although I assume McCain is among them) and hand over a “black list” of 20 Russian officials (including Putin) whom she wants to ban from travel to USA.


        Here are the 20 unlucky officials who got themselves onto Chirikova’s shitlist:


        If and when Putin is elected Prez of Russia, this travel ban could become awkward. I mean, he will need to travel to U.S. occasionally, if only to attend UN meetings. Otherwise, next American President Mitt Romney will be forced to travel to Europe to meet Putin on neutral ground.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          “But it so happened that we went from the struggle to save a forest to a fight against power system that exists in Russia. For example, we had to put together and send to the U.S. a list of bureaucrats who, we think, betrayed public interests. The list includes people ranging from Russia’s prime minister to the deputy head of Khimki’s police department…

          “The Russian people in many ways are like cattle. They would tolerate anything. We don’t expect fair play from the government, but we surely did not expect the hoax that the “tandem” pulled off on September 9, 2011 (on that date President Medvedev announced that he will not run for president and that he recommends the ruling party to nominate Vladimir Putin)…

          “I simply don’t see any future for me and my daughters in Russia, unless we manage to change things around. I will leave if I have to, but many of my friends will have to stay and to see how this great country is falling apart.

          “We are grateful for the support from the international community and from the U.S. We discussed our efforts to fight the corrupt system and develop civil society with the Vice President Joseph Biden and with the deputy secretary on human rights Michael Posner. I hope that we’ll be able to take a stroll in the Khimki forest in the years to come.”

          During his official visit to Russia, Vice President Joe Biden awarded Evegenia Chirikova with the Woman of Courage award.

          See: http://readrussia.com/blog/politics/00343/

          The site is called “Russia!”. It describes itself thus:

          RUSSIA! is the only publication of its kind: an independent magazine devoted entirely to Russia-related topics. With strong reporting, cutting-edge Russian graphic design and a healthy dose of sarcasm, RUSSIA! offers the most original coverage of the people, trends, ideas and events that shape this fascinating and perplexing country.

          The site address is: USA, P.O. Box 651, New York, NY 10276,

          • Dear Yalensis,

            I think your original emphasis on Navalny is absolutely right. He is a far more dangerous person than Chirikova. His emphasis on corruption and his nationalism are politically speaking immeasurably more astute than Chirikova’s ludicrously over the top pro Americanism.

            To my mind all the information that Moscow Exile, Kievite and you have obtained about Chirikova simply shows how politically immature and out of touch she is. If she had simply said that her visit to the embassy was a routine courtesy call to which she had been invited by the US ambassador the matter would have ended there. Instead she is working hard to increase the importance of the visit in a way that can only do her and the non system opposition damage.

            Calling the Russian people “cattle” and blatantly supporting the US over her own country is scarcely going to win her much support. Openly bragging about how the US is going to help her overthrow the government is plain silly. Talking about how she will leave the country if things don’t change in the way she wants them to simply underlines her own lack of patriotism and commitment to her own country. Demanding the country’s political fragmentation into some sort of confederation simply calls up memories of the USSR’s collapse and is for Putin a political gift. As for the nonsense she said outside the embassy about the rule of law, it looked to me like she was simply saying the first thing that came into her head.

            Overall Chirikova simply does not impress me as a serious politician. Frankly I get the impression that all the attention and flattery she is getting from the US has simply turned her head. From the US point of view she is doubtless a useful idiot they can put in front of the cameras when they want to impress visiting western journalists. For the rest of the non system opposition as Nemtsov’s salty comments about her show she is fast becoming an embarrassment.

            PS: I don’t think that there was ever any possibility of a physical assault on Chirikova outside the embassy or even a ghost of a threat of such an assault. The visit of the opposition leaders to the embassy was bound to attract photographers. Chirikova’s attention grabbing behaviour shows that she has no idea how to handle such attention. I stick to my original view that it simply shows how the attention she is getting has gone to her head. Her excited photographing of all and sundry and her taunting and laughing at pople from inside the embassy was the one certain way to provoke more attention. Her haranguing of the photographers as she left the embassy instead of silently walking away from them provoked more attention still. The person who followed her into the underground passage was not threatening her but was filming her. This can be intrusive but it is the price one pays for becoming a public figure. Her decision to confront this person instead of simply walking away from him unnecessarily dramatised the incident and gave the impression to me at least that the only threat of physical aggression was coming from her.

            • yalensis says:

              Thanks, @alexander, very good points.
              Two comments:
              (1) I don’t know if the photographers following Chirikova into the subway were Nashi members or not. If so, she may have felt intimidated, because Nashisti have a reputation (don’t know if deserved or not) for beating up political opponents. Plus, the Opposition are always harping on “bloody Putin” and how he kills off his opponents. Politkovskaya murdered; savage beating of Kashin; and so on. Based on this, she may well have felt a rush of fear. Her body language in the video seems to indicate that her veins were suddenly flooded with adrenaline. Fight or flight. She decides to fight. In most cases, when confronting bullies, this is actually the correct choice. (Not saying the photographers were bullies, but she seems to think they are.) You are right, her fear was probably unwarranted. The photographers are trying to talk to her, they seem fairly calm, not threatening or swearing at her. And her male escort does not seem overly intimidated, at one point he tries to calm her down and says something like, “We should engage them in dialogue,” to which she replies angrily: “WHAT dialogue? There can be no dialogue (with such types)!”
              (2) In googling Chirikova’s latest exploits, I discovered that she recently vacationed in the Philippines. I am seeing a pattern: Navalny vacations in Spain and Mexico; Chirikova in the Phillipines. All Spanish-speaking countries. Mark thinks it is just because you can get a good deal for tourism in these countries. Maybe. But I am still suspecting that she and Navalny share an American CIA handler who is mostly likely Hispanic and fits in well in these countries!

          • marknesop says:

            Yup. Referring to your fellow citizens as “cattle who will tolerate anything” is a sure path to political stardom. Keep workin’ it, Sistah!

        • marknesop says:

          You ruined a fairly logical progression by suggesting Mitt Romney is going to be the next president. Mitt Romney is as unelectable as John Ashcroft, who once lost to a dead man. Every other candidate for the Republican nomination has enjoyed a surge in popularity that is predicated on Romney’s unpopularity. I am quite sure he will be the nominee, but if Obama couldn’t beat Mitt Romney, the Republican party could put up Doku Umarov and win.

          Chirikova has been busy, all right, but she bases her entire political methodology on telling the west what it wants to hear. That’s all very well for ingratiating herself with the west, and it will work – but she has even less credibility with the Russian electorate than Nemtsov, who reliably fails to meet the threshold for gaining a seat in the Duma. I’ve often said rejecting PARNAS’s bid for running was a big mistake – they should have been allowed to run and been annihilated, like they always are. Then all they’d have to fall back on would be the usual bleating about being denied a level playing field and access to free advertising.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            To digress a little from Chirikova, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the man that invited her and others to have a chat at the US embassy, namely the US ambassador, Michael McFaul, as the British Daily Telegraph and Independent have today belatedly latched onto Russian criticism of the ambassador’s interest in “the opposition”.

            Mr. McFaul wrote a book in 2002 entitled “Russia’s Unfinished Revolution”. This book was scathingly reviewed in that year by the now long defunct Moscow Exile. Here is that review as published in the online The Exiled. It makes, I think, interesting reading concerning Mr. McFaul’s opinion of Russian politics.

            See: http://exiledonline.com/mikey-mcfaul-and-the-three-bears-a-review-of-russias-unfinished-revolution/

            • marknesop says:

              It is a point of endless curiosity to me how an entire genre of political enablers can so aggressively defend Yeltsin as the Great Democratizer; Russia’s last, best chance for western-style reforms. Oh, he was that, all right – but I mean how a genre can defend it as a missed opportunity rather than the dodging of a bullet that it was.

              When the shaky interim coalition took over and proclaimed itself the legitimate rule in Russia, the KGB immediately began a number of investigations of the dodgy accumulation of wealth as well as the foreign associations of some of the oligarchs. Since it only held together a couple of days, all those investigations were dropped when Yeltsin took up the reins again. Who knows now who might have been still trading cigarettes for glimpses of sunlight in prison instead of inveigling against the Russian government from abroad as multimillionaires had Yeltsin failed to resume power, and those investigations been pursued to their conclusion.

              McFaul appears here as an idiot savant (I laughed at the line about his canine cunning making up for his canine intellect), but I’m convinced it would be a mistake to underestimate him as only a well-placed sycophant. He appears to have learned a lot since 2002. However, I’d be skeptical of any claim that his intentions and interests vis-a-vis Russia had changed at all. I believe his position in Russia is predicated on a desire to forestall its success in achieving its goals and to place such stumbling blocks in its way as can reasonably be effected.

              It could be worse. It could be John Bolton. But that would only be worse as a matter of degree. McFaul is much better at the spread hands, “who; me?” look of wide-eyed innocence than Bolton would be.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                The Moscow Times reports today that Golos is to be evicted from its Moscow office. See:


                The Quatar Times has reported in the same Golos eviction story that: “The agency [Golos] accepts Western grants, but does so openly. Shibanova also had her laptop confiscated in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, and the Central Election Commission fined the watchdog 30,000 rubles for gathering information on violations five days ahead of the parliamentary elections, though it refrained from taking stricter actions.

                “Golos became the subject of a prime-time smear documentary and drew the ire of Putin who lashed out at Western attempts to “influence the course of the election campaign” through Russian NGOs”.

                See: http://www.qatar-tribune.com/data/20120125/content.asp?section=world1_3

                And yesterday the BBC had a report about “Russia’s only independent election monitoring organization” being evicted from their Moscow offices (and we all know who is responsible – wink, wink!)

                RIA Novosti reported that “Several Kremlin-linked media outlets, including NTV television channel and governmental newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta, accused Golos ahead of the Duma vote of being a subversive agent of Western powers”.

                See: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20120124/170928520.html

                Here is the NTV “prime-time smear documentary” as mentioned above by The Quatar Tribune:

                Note the “likes” and “dislikes” at the bottom right of the video of the NTV pprogramme, yet there are only two comments.

                I presume the “dislikes” are the result of knee-jerk reaction of russophobes worldwide who believe it’s all “commie propaganda”.

                And dear old “Auntie BBC” maintains that Golos is “independent”.

                • yalensis says:

                  My dear Uncle Vanya has a talking parrot, unfortunately all he knows how to say is:

                  “вы сурковская пропаганда!”

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Here she is again, same place last Tuesday. Definitely full of herself. She’s so conceited that she chooses to address those who are questioning her in the subway (in the previous shorter version of this clip shown above) with the familiar, or, as the case may be, derogatory familiar second person singular pronoun “ty” (ты). Chirikova is only 34, and in any case, from this clip it can be seen that she was not addressing children with the familiar “ty”; the person asking the questions in the clip is a young woman, but not a child. There are no hordes of Nashi juveniles to be seeen anywhere either. Chirikova was, therefore, “talking down” to her interlocutors when asking them “Как тебя зовут?” (Kak tebya zovut?) – “What’s your name?” And she and her fellow traitorous подпиндосники have all clearly been well trained in that they all repeat “This is is Surkovsky propaganda! This is Surkovsky propaganda!” as does the Golos lickspittle ad nauseam in the NTV “smear broadcast” (shown below) on that “independent” organization.

            • Giuseppe Flavio says:

              Dear Moscow Exile,
              sorry, but I have an OT question about the formal and familiar way of addressing someone in Russian. The second singular person is the familiar way as you say, so which is the formal way? Is it perhaps the third singular person or the second plural one? I’m asking because in Italian the second singular person (“tu” for short) is used in the same way, while the third singular person (with the female genre) (“lei”) and the second plural one (“voi”) are used in formal language. The latter (“voi”) is the older form.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                Formal – “vy” (вы), which is “you” in English, “Sie” in German and “vous” in French.

                That’s what one uses when speaking with respect to older people, or to one’s “social superiors”, bosses, cops, strangers etc. It is the 2nd person singular pronoun (nominative). The accusative is “vas” (вас), the dative – “vam” (вам), and the instrumental – “vami” (вами).

                The 2nd person singular (nominative) is “ty” (ты), which is “thou” (archaic or dialect or when addressing god in prayers) in English, “du” in German and “tu” in French. The accusative is tebya (тебя), the dative tebye (тебе) and the instrumental toboi (тобой).

                One uses the 2nd person singular, as in Italian, I should think, and in German, French with family, friends, children, animals (horses, dogs, cats etc). If one uses it with none of these categories, one is being rude, cheeky, presumptious or mocking.

                Chirikova did not politely say “Kak vas zovut?” (Как вас зовут) to the person or persons following her in the underpass, but used the informal “tebya” (тебя), as though she were talking to a kid, and she wasn’t: she was addressing an adult stranger who was with an NTV camera crew and sound man amongst others, and who was asking her politely about the purpose of her visit to the US Embassy.

                • Moscow Exile says:


                  I wrote above: “It [vy] is the 2nd person singular pronoun (nominative). The accusative is “vas” (вас), the dative – “vam” (вам), and the instrumental – “vami” (вами).”

                  I should, of course, have written “It is the second person PLURAL personal pronoun (nominative).”

                  I should go to bed. It’s midnight here in Moscow and I’ve had a long day.

                  Спокойной ночи!

                • Giuseppe Flavio says:

                  Many thanks, and Good Night!

                • yalensis says:

                  Addendum: If you meet an (adult) stranger in Russia, you address them as “вы” (polite “you”). If you start to feel more friendly (maybe after a glass of vodka), you might request permission to switch to the more intimate “ты” by politely asking “можно на ты?” (May I address you as “ty”?)
                  Historical note: during Russian Revolution of 1905, one of the demands of the working class was that their bosses at the factory start to address them in the polite “vy” instead of “ty”. As Aretha Franklin would say: It’s all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

                • Dear Yalensis,

                  At the time the Tsar abdicated in March Lenin was in exile in Zurich trying to run the Bolshevik party from there. Trotsky was in the US. He had despaired of revolution in Russia and was planning to emigrate to the US. Stalin was in prison in a camp in Siberia. All three returned to Petrograd as quickly as they could. Stalin got there first and led the Bolshevik party in Petrograd until Lenin arrived in April. Lenin had to do a deal with the German government with which Russia was at war to travel across Germany in a sealed train in order to get to Russia. Trotsky got back a little later. From the moment Lenin got back in April the Bolsheviks under his leadership worked round the clock for the Soviets to gain power, which they did following the revolution in October. The idea of any of them going on holiday during this period would have struck them as absurd. Whatever else they were they were serious people and genuine revolutionaries unlike the present lot who claim to be leading a popular protest movement but actually are merely acting the part.

                  It is excellent that you travel a lot. So do I and I greatly enjoy it. But then neither of us says we want to overthrow the constitution and governments of our respective countries or claims that those governments are corrupt tyrannies that oppress the people or say that we want to be the future leaders of our countries as Navalny and Chirikova do.

              • Dear Moscow Exile,

                Thanks for a very interesting video clip.

                Contrast the far more composed behaviour of the experienced politicians like Nemtsov with that of Chirikova and the person from Golos.

                As for the refrain about “Surkov propaganda”, it is provocative and insultiing towards people who were doing no more than taking photographs of a public event and asking a few questions and making a few comments, which they have a perfect right to do. Not only does this sort of thing unnecessarily raise the temperature but it sounds rehearsed and rude, Before long it will start to grate and people will become irritated by it.

                Just a few things:

                1. Since Golos receives money from the US government it is not an “independent monitoring agency”, It is an agency that is funded at least in part by the US government, On the principle that he who pays the piper calls the tune that makes Golos unless to say or do something that is contrary to the wishes of the US government, which is one of its funders. Golos cannot therefore be called an “independent agency”.

                2. Whether or not Navalny or Chirikova holiday abroad in far away places like Mexico and the Philippines in order to get instructions from their controller I do not know. Actually I rather doubt it. What I can say is that it must create a disastrous impression especially when done in the midst of an election campaign. Inevitably it will make many people wonder where they get their money for these sort of holidays, which are still far beyond the reach of most Russians. It is not after all as if Russia lacks holiday destinations. Serious politicians like Putin, Zyuganov and yes Medvedev are careful to take their New Year breaks in Russia.

                Taking foreign holdays at this time must also look absurdly frivolous and self indulgent to most people. Chirikova and Navalny are supposed to be trying to overthrow the government. What sort of revolutionaries are they that in the middle of the revolution decide to go abroad on holiday? Did Lenin and Trotsky and Stalin go on holiday abroad whilst planning the October Revolution?

                • yalensis says:

                  Er… actually… I think Lenin was living in exile at the time in Germany and Trotsky in Switzerland. Or vice versa. In any case, I could care less if Navalny/Chirikova spent their holidays eating caviar in the most expensive resort in the Riviera. I have no right to judge them for their holidays, because I travel a lot myself and take expensive ski vacations at various resorts. I only judge them if they are meeting with CIA handler, which I suspect they are!

                • Moscow Exile says:


                  More on the traitorous actions of some “oppositionists”:


                  For the benefit of those with a limited command of Russian, my translation:

                  “We shall be helped abroad” or the history of the opposition’s love for America.
                  I have decided to have a think about other people’s money and their dangerous contacts!

                  Yesterday , some members of the opposition, amongst whom were Boris Nemtsov, Yevgenaya Chirikova, Sergei Mitrokhin, Oksana Dmitrieva and Lev Ponomaryov, for some reason or other “went on an excursion” to the United States Embassy. I should remind you that the new American Ambassador Michael McFaul, who is considered by Barak Obama’s administration to be an expert on Russia as well as on “orange revolutions”, had only the day before begun to work in Moscow. Do you think this case is unprecedented? No, precedents there are. The fact is that this is not the first time that our opposition has demonstrated its warm feelings towards the American Government

                  Yevgeniya Chirikova
                  In March 2011 she met United States Vice President Joseph Biden, who handed her an award “For Bravery”, established by the State Department of the United States – http://ria.ru/society/20110310/344552751.html. A fortuitous occasion? Did they really want to reward a plucky woman? You might have thought so if this had happened only once.

                  On 14 September of last year, Chirikova went to Washington in order to take a “black list” of Russian politicians and officials there. Yevgeniya explained herself thus:

                  “What have they done to you, my Motherland, that in order to protect you I have to go “there “…” (http://jenya-khimles.livejournal.com/36256.html)*

                  What expressiveness! However, such lyricism can only deceive fools. In order to understand this, it is only necessary to answer two simple questions: first – whose interests take priority for the United States – their own or those of Russia, which country, incidentally, is not the only player on the international stage (and it also follows that it is a competitor of the United States); second – if the people on the “black lists” are traitors to the national interests of Russia, why set up the United States against them? It would be more logical the other way round, wouldn’t it, that the “traitors” received support from the United States.

                  Boris Nemtsov
                  Boris Nemtsov, has had regular meetings with U.S. officials. He met Bill Clinton (as much as 4 times), former Vice-President Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice (former Head of the Department of State), John McCain (who threatened a Russian “Arab spring”), Michael McFaul (who is the current U.S. Ambassador and “Russian specialist”). And these are only those meetings that we know of. How many meetings there have been and about which nothing is known, one can only guess.

                  The “solidarity” movement, co-chaired by Nemtsov, is funded from the United States by “The National Fund for Democracy , which gets its money directly from the United States budget and distributes grants and in particular sponsors of Arab youth. Its purpose is stated explicitly: the maintenance of opposition activities in Russia. Here is the document :


                  In 2008, Nemtsov ran for Mayor of Sochi with the financial support of an NFD “subsidiary”, “THE INTERNATIONAL REPUBLICAN INSTITUTE” (the IRI, the head of which, incidentally, is the odious John McCain). It supported Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov in 2009, when they moved to the Moscow city Duma.

                  Of course, American funds will not be simply distributed just like that. From Nemtsov they are surely demanding services in response. How, exactly, one can only guess, but a hint may be given by a Conference held in November 2010 and called “How to restore America’s leadership in the modern world” (or whatever), in which Nemtsov presented a report. The moderator was Dan Senor, a person involved in the American occupation of Iraq. In addition, Joe Lieberman, author of the phrase “the new Russian threat”, was announced to have been among the participants.

                  In addition, WikiLeaks has published a transcript of a telegram from the former American Ambassador in Moscow, in which he informed his superiors that Boris Nemtsov and another oppositionist, Vladimir Milov, had agreed “the purpose of the political opposition in the next two years should be work to prevent the return of Vladimir Putin to the Presidency. But, according to their opinion, his overthrow could lead only to an emergency situation”. So there you have it: their goal is to establish of an emergency situation.

                  Alexey Navalny
                  Alexey Navalny has been noted for having contacts with the United States and for being a notorious blogger and “anti-corruption activist”. One should be reminded that in 2009, he was invited to Yale University. He got a $ 32,000 per term grant for that, by the way:


                  What did he give in return? Do you know many people who are invited to Yale for nothing?

                  The secret answer to this question might be revealed by Navalny’s personal correspondence. His post, hacked in 2011 by “Hacker Hell”, will surely tell. Here’s a screenshot of a letter in which Navalny apologizes for the delay in a financial report to an officer of the “National Fund for Democracy ” (the same NFD that funds Nemtsov). Enclosed are some more than interesting files of financial reports, where Navalny reports to the Fund about money (a grant) that had been invested invested in political debates. There is an Excel-document included that refers to an amount of $23000.


                  (Translation of email:

                  Good Day, Frank.
                  Maria passed on your letter to me, where you talk about not having received from us any final statements.
                  Some kind of mistake has taken place. We are totally convinced that they were sent out. Or it might be my fault. I should have kept an eye on the receipts.
                  I ask for your forgiveness and shall send you the statements again.
                  I hope we haven’t greatly let you down.
                  I hope Maria won’t be arrested for this [letter now partly obstructed] and that she won’t be sent to Guantanamo [letter now partly obstructed] ….)

                  There is nothing to comment about: it all speaks for itself. There is also some Navalny correspondence with Ilya Yashin, where the former boasts of having started to co-operate with people from an American Government Commission, and thanks him for the “useful contact “:


                  In August 2008, an officer of the American Embassy met Alexy Navalny and his lawyer Alexander Glushenkov. After the meeting, the American compared Navalny with Don Quixote (who, incidentally, pushed his idealism towards the verge of the idiocy in his tilting against windmills) and advised that he be invited to take notes at the next meeting of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. This organization was established in 2002 on the proposal of the former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Some experts have explicitly referred to this organization as a tool of the United States and the EU in order to take control of the resources of developing :


                  *Translation of Chirikova’s tear-jerking letter that appeared on her website, explaining why she had gone to the USA:

                  “If you’re reading this post, it means that I have safely gone through passport control and am sitting on board a Boeing which is about to take me to America, the country that since my childhood I had been taught to consider as an enemy. But later, when the enemy suddenly became a friend, I never believed that ‘foreign countries would help us and that we would not be abandoned by the West’. What have they done to you, my Motherland, that in order to defend you I have to go ‘there’?

                  I’m going to Washington and New York and am taking with me blacklists of traitors to Russian public interests. A meeting with US senators has been scheduled for us and my goal is to refer them to the lists and ensure that officials from the list receive a ban from entering America and a ban on the use of their foreign accounts, which have been basically created from the same source: the sales of my country’s resources.

                  This spring the Khimki Forest Movement in conjunction with Bankwatch was able to establish and prove the existence of a corrupt offshore scheme put together by Vinci, the company responsible for the Moscow-St. Petersburg motorway project:


                  Using a network of subsidiaries, Vinci created a scheme for transferring to offshore havens monies from the Russian federal project. One of these firms belongs to Arkady Rotenberg, a close friend of Prime Minister Putin. We passed on the information about this matter to the FSB, but received no response. I don’t like how the company Vinci treats my country as a colony, taking advantage of the fact that the people in power do not link their future with our country and in our country. There are no longer any government bodies able to fight for the interests of Russian citizens. The company Vinci would not have been possible in any civilized country where the government really cares about the national interest.

                  Insofar as the company Vinci is integrated into the international economy and one of the structures of the United Nations plays a role in international stock exchanges, I hope that information on Vinci activities in Russia will be of interest to the international community”.

                  Chirikova Tweeted after her cosying up to McFaul in Moscow:

                  Если можно использовать Америку в борьбе против режима ПЖиВ и Путина, разграблающих природные ресурсы нашей страны это надо делать!

                  (If it is possible to use America in the struggle against the “Party of Scoundrels and Thieves” and Putin, who are stealing the natural resources of our country, then it is necessary to do so.)

                  In response to this traitorous Tweet, a certain Lev Shcharansky wrote on Chirikovsky’s site:

                  “Рукопожимаю. Наконец-то появился достойный наследник генерала Власова. Что нельзя не одобрить”.

                  (I shake your hand. At last somebody has appeared as a worthy successor to General Vlasov. That can’t be denied.”

                  Pity that Sts Peter and Paul Fortress is now a museum!

                  Общественный активист Лев Щаранский написал Чириковой: “Рукопожимаю. Наконец-то появился достойный наследник генерала Власова. Что нельзя не одобрить”.

  62. yalensis says:

    RT exposes Al Jazeera as CIA propaganda tool:

  63. kievite says:

    Amazing fact of the level of penetration of liberasts in the existing government: Russia does not check if a person who is appointed to some important public body has foreign citizenship or not.

    More and more it looks like the government under Medvedev (which includes Putin as a prime minister ;-) is playing some complex game which is a derivative of classic Russian checker game “poddavki”.

    Arkady Mamontov published documents proving that the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alekseeva has obligations to the UK (due to large grants received) and to the United States (she is a citizen of this country). The Interior Ministry has already sent a request to the requirement to explain how a person who is a member of “Public counsel” of this ministry turned out to be a U.S. citizen. http://vz.ru/politics/2012/1/23/555687.html

    • Dear Kievite,

      On the subject of Lyudmila Alekseeva it appears that the British secret service (MI6) official who was involved in the artificial rock incident in 2006 may actually have been funnelling money to her.

  64. cartman says:

    Re: Yavlinsky

    Since he is Ukrainian (from Lviv no less) what would happen if his citizenship was stripped away before the election? Keep in mind this is exactly what Mikheil Saakashvili did to his toughest challenger.

    • Dear Cartman,

      I seem to recall that at the start of the parliamentary election campaign Yavlinsky said that he would stand for the Presidency IF Yabloko gained enough votes to qualify for the parliament.

      In the event Yabloko did not gain enough votes to qualify for the parliament and this would apparently have been the case even if the results were changed by as much as 15% as a result of fraud. As I understand it the most widely touted mathematical calculation cited by the opposition suggests that if there was 15% fraud then Yabloko’s vote would merely have increased from 3% to 4%, which would still have been too low to enter the parliament even if the threshold had been brought down to 5%.

      Notwithstanding this failure of Yabloko to get into the parliament Yavlinsky apparently now wants to stand for the Presidency. Presumably he changed his mind following the protests. Could this very late change in mind be the reason why Yabloko did not organise a proper signature collecting campaign so that many of the signatures it submitted were fake? I say this because I have no doubt that the Central Electoral Commission is telling the truth and that many of the signatures are fake. Given that the signatures are available for outside parties to check if all the signatures are genuine Yavlinsky’s campaign should have no difficulty proving this fact, which of course it has not.

  65. yalensis says:

    “Please, Grandfather McFaul, I am just a poor, sweet-faced Russian maiden trying to save this forest from the evil forces of Putin-BabaYaga… Please wave your magic wand and help me….”

  66. yalensis says:

    Civil war in Libya: Pro-Gaddafy forces (=Green Resistance Movement) seize Bani-Walid. NTC (=NATO/AlQaeda) puppet government in disarray:


    Meanwhile, there are persistent reports of 12,000 NATO troops (mostly Americans) disembarking in Libya via Malta. Is possible they are not there for Libya, however, but just staging ground on their way to Iran invasion. Is big secret, nobody knows for sure.

  67. kievite says:

    It is pretty funny too see how the person responsible for Yeltsin privatization and resulting creation of the class of criminal oligarchs now is waving the flag of “fighting with corruption”:

    Mr. Ryzhvov first came to public attention in 1993 as a State Duma member of Russia’s Choice; a party headed by Yegor Gaidar. The principal architect of the Yeltsin-era “shock therapy” and widespread privatizations that left huge sectors of state assets in the hands of a few fabulously wealthy individuals

    Here is a unique opportunity too see him in in a new skin of fighter for “honest elections” — in debate with this opponents.

    A couple of places are revealing about Ryzhkov personality and liberasts in general. Unfortunately this was far from a civil, academic style debates, there was a lot of shouting and Kurginyan was a little bit hysterical.

    I like the comment of Egor Kholmogorov who stated that the current situation has three major components (see also his http://www.rus-obr.ru/lj/15939)

    1. Elements of foreign intelligence operation against exiting Russian government component (orange element)
    2. Elements of the internal coup d’état within the Russian government itself due to increased infighting of two major power groups: “A coup consists of the infiltration of a small, but critical, segment of the state apparatus, which is then used to displace the government from its control of the remainder” (Wikipedia).
    3. Elements of mass dissatisfaction with the result of Yelstin criminal privatization and resulting criminalization of Russian economics along with pretences of new wave of national bourgeoisie on carcass of the USSR devoured by Yeltsin mafia (which produced the current set of oligarchs).

    I think that he missed the growing role of financial sector in Russian economics which (much similar to its US counterpart) wants absolute “liberasts”-style power in order to enforce neoliberalism and get super-profits
    P.S. Ksenia Sobchak was revealed as a typical female sociopath in this discussion — lying is as natural as breathing for her. All the time, in all circumstances. Sometimes I have impression that for her there is no difference between reality and her lies. Here is one pretty telling moment:

  68. Exhibit #294 on why Medvedev was never fit to be President.

    During a speech at a journalism department (in MGU, I think), he was asked by one obnoxious student if he was ready to be executed like Saddam or whether he would flee to his friends in North Korea.

    Instead of putting down that punk with a witty and biting comeback like Putin would have done, Medvedev actually PRAISED him for bravery. I nit you shot. Talk of legitimizing people who want to see your own head on a pike.

    • Crazy!

      My aunt who was a very successful politician in Greece used to tell me that the first law of politician is never to get into the sort of situation where you are asked this kind of question. Given that the student body at MGU voted overwhelmingly against United Russia Medvedev should have stayed well away. The second law if one is asked this kind of question is to go on the attack by ridiculing the questioner.

      • Exactly, Alex. I agree 100% with you.

        It’s not even politics but basic psychology. Instead of calling out the student for the daydreamer / divisive ideologue, DAM gave him street cred by praising his courage. The mind truly boggles.

        Now it’s one thing if it were Kudrin, who has always been a socially awkward technocrat. But Medvedev used to be a lawyer!?

        Look at Romney when some OWS malcontent pressed him on finances. He essentially told the guy to go to Russia if he likes it that much: “But you know what? America’s right, and you’re wrong.” That’s how a real politician operates.

        • marknesop says:

          It’s difficult to imagine Medvedev as a lawyer; he seems only a short remove from the starry-eyed student idealist himself.

          A good education is a fine thing, but decision-making with the sort of responsibility such as is conveyed by the vote requires a burnishing of experience and worldliness. God save us from the kind of government as that which would be chosen by students. They often fancy they know everything about foreign affairs while they are even at the time living in their first experience away from the streets of their home, and idealism allows one to fancy he or she has what it takes to make decisions that will affect families and grandparents while still years away from having children and the grind of responsibility. Such people value a fine turn of phrase and the outflung arm of manly emotion far beyond their worth. This is why they are easily fused into a chanting mob, and why they turn out disproportionately for demonstrations. Because they’re easily influenced.

          I read that Romney had finally, grudgingly released his tax returns for 2010 and 2011. Unsurprisingly, they reveal that he paid less than 15% taxes on income over $45 million. Mitt is the corporations’ choice, but they’re not as powerful as they think they are and – to paraphrase Grand Funk Railroad – all they’ve got is money.

          • Dear Mark,

            “It is difficult to imagine Medvedev as a lawyer”.

            This is one of the rare cases when I disagree with you. On the contary in my opinion a lot of the trouble is that Medvedev approaches politics like a lawyer. Lawyers are predisposed to take their opponents’ arguments seriously and to look for negotiated solutions meeting their opponents half way. In a politician this can be disastrous and in a situation such as the one Medvedev faces where he has an opposition that is completely unreasonable and irreconcilable and ultimately disputes his legitimacy it is doubly so.

            This does not mean that a legal training is always bad for a politician. At its best it can instill intellectual rigour, which can be a great advantage to a politician with a strong personality and a well grounded system of beliefs. Consider for example how many of the great revolutionaries were practising lawyers before they became politicians. Examples include Cromwell, Robespierre, Jefferson, Lincoln and Lenin. Their legal background becomes very obvious if you study their speeches and writings, which often follow the pattern of legal arguments. Of course merely to mention such titans is sufficient to show what a completely inadequate man Medvedev is.

  69. yalensis says:

    Here is an article from Alla Yaroshinskaya about a televised debate between Prokhorov and Ziuganov which occurred one week ago on Channel “Rossiya-1”.
    According to this account, Ziuganov won the debate hands down and made Prokhorov look like a fool. No surprise there – say what you will about wily (and unprincipled) old Commie Ziuganov, the guy is a master debater. I recall one incident a year or so ago, when Ziuganov debated Putin himself and almost had him in tears with his sharp tongue.
    Anyhow, Prokhorov, whose debut this was to a larger TV public, made a HUGE gaffe. After continuous hammering on his illegally-gotten wealth, which he acquired via dubious means in the gangsta 90’s, an irritated Prokhorov hassled one of his questioners, a Communist Party deputy named Smolin, “Why don’t you come closer? You obviously don’t see me very well…” [Turns out Smolin is legally blind.]
    Putting aside Prokhorov’s poor debating skills and lack of preparation for the debate, the key issue was that of 90’s privatizations and the ongoing class struggle to either keep or reverse those privatizations. Ziuganov hammered Prokhorov mercilessly and promised (if elected) to re-nationalize Prokhorov’s ill-gotten wealth; while Prokhorov fought hard to keep his $17 billions.

    В общем, как отмечали после эфира блогеры, “задача Прохорова — легализация добытых средств в 1990-х. Их дети должны быть уверены в том, что они — будущие хозяева России. И все”.

    “…Prokhorov’s task is to legalize what [the oligarchs] obtained in the 1990’s. Their children must live assured that they are the future masters of Russia. And that’s all there is to it.”

    Yep, that’s what this hokey-pokey is all about.

  70. kievite says:

    Transcription of Medvedev’s meeting with students of Moscow State University journalism department (in Russian)


    Some questions were really hilarious:

    My name is Vladimir Kulikov, I student of television.

    I am very sad for everything that is happening right now in this country’s journalism, domestic television. And I am even more sad for everything that happens in our country. To be honest, the last three years I really ponder about moving to another country. I am very worried.

    In interviews, you very often talk about responsibility, about personal responsibility, about the fact that any decisions you take and feel that will feedback of millions. I am interested in the following question.
    Now in our country is developing a very serious revolutionary situation. I feel in in coversations. I also can feel it in the Internet comments. And I wonder, what will be the strategy of your personal behaviour during the revolution in the country?

    How do you realise your level of responsibility? Are you ready to go in the People’s Court (surely this is likely be the result of a revolution), and are you willing to defend your decisions and their ideals? Do you understand what most likely the court will necessarily be biased, because all the revolutionary courts are biased? Do you understand that, most likely, you can get the death penalty?
    Are you ready to brave it and accept it as did Saddam Hussein, or do you emigrate to the friendly North Korea, the death of the leader so that you sympathize with, as opposed to Vaclav Havel? Thank you.

  71. yalensis says:

    @Mercouris: Dear Alex, thanks for reminder of October Revolution historical background. I had forgotten some of the details. Lenin/Trotsky/Stalin were serious revolutionaries, not like the clowns of today. These weekend warriors have only had 2 demonstrations, both on weekends. With more than a month in-between. Their next gig is scheduled for February 4. Meanwhile, Putin has had plenty of time to gather his troops for a resounding counter-offensive. Other difference: Bolsheviks actually had a fully written-out political program, which included abolishing capitalism. Other difference: factory workers supported Bolsheviks with general strike. Can you imagine even one Russian out of 120 million going on strike to bring Prokhorov or Navalny to power? Excruciatingly funny! Sobchak was right when she called her silly cohorts “mink-coat revolutionaries”.

  72. Dear Yalensis,

    Going completely off topic it seems that the situation in Libya is so bad that UN secretariat and the Libyan interventionist cheerleaders in the Guardian have finally been forced to admit the fact. Of course anyone reading your posts would have known all this weeks ago.


    • yalensis says:

      As one of the commenters to this Guardian article notes (and I have read in many other sources), “Doctors Without Borders” had to pull out of the Misrata detention center when they realized that the prisoners they were treating were being sent back repetitively for more torture. In other words, the doctors were expected to treat prisoners after a torture session, in order to revive them enough, so they could be sent back in for more torture. There are estimates of tens of thousands of Libyans being tortured by the NTC/Al Qaeda government and militias. A majority are Libyan citizens who happen to be ethnic Africans, many are being detained indefinitely and tortured for no other reason than their ethnicity. One of the reasons the Benghazi/Al Qaeda element detest the Africans (above and beyond simple racism) is because the ethnic Africans also practice a slightly different variant of Islam. For example, they use tombs and mausoleums, which the Wahhabists do not allow.

      • marknesop says:

        And I don’t want to, you know, keep on about it – but the NATO planners were well aware in advance of their plunging in that the side they were preparing to back was a pretty unsavory lot. Taken as a body, NATO appears to be a collective fan of chaos theory, the old must-destroy-the-village-in-order-to-save-it philosophy. So, as commenters point out, there is no reason at all to appear surprised now. The only variable was whether or not the uprising would succeed, and there seems little question that it would not have had NATO not gotten involved in a capacity that went far, far beyond the “protection of civilians” fig leaf.

        I haven’t seen any reports on what’s happening in Tunisia these days, but that’s less relevant as that one seemed to be a genuine spontaneous uprising in which it probably was not necessarily to the west’s advantage for the regime to fall. Egypt, however, is a colossal mess. Libya, as we see here, is a colossal mess, and still far too restive for the energy giants to move in and soothe everyone by spreading money around. The “rebels” were quite clear they had no intention of doing backflips of gratitude for the military assistance. So it’s hard to see by what measure it could be rated a success.

      • yalensis says:

        “Doctors without Borders” pulls out of Misrata prison:

  73. yalensis says:

    What galls me the most is the lost opportunity to the continent and people of Africa. Gaddafi’s patronage and investment fund consisting of billions that he set up to help develop this potentially wealthy continent – it is all gone now, and Africa is back in the thrall of colonial powers who have been exploiting and brutalizing for hundreds of years. I am not saying Gaddafi was perfect, he did some bad things in Africa and sometimes took the wrong side in various conflicts. But overall his intentions were good, and the investment fund could have helped pull Africa up out of the gutter it has been consigned to. Also granted, many African leaders themselves are their own worst enemies – and Jacob Zuma of South Africa deserves a special criticism for stabbing Gaddafy in the back. If Zuma had stood firm against NATO, he could have made a difference. (The same could be said about Medvedev, but he has less reason to give a shit about Africa.) Having said all that, the USA and European colonial powers are responsible for keeping Africa down in the dirt, exploited and brutalized. Gaddafy’s crime was trying to do something about this. His idea of an African “gold dinar” currency was one of the main reasons he was targeted for assassination by the West.

  74. kievite says:

    I can tell you guys that you are way too serrious ;-)

  75. yalensis says:

    Mass protests in Romania:


    Translated into Russian from a Czech newspaper. Czech author Petr Jedlička makes it sound like Romania is some distant, remote planet, and nobody can possibly know what is going on there. I just checked the map, and Romania (EU member) is right in the middle of Eastern Europe. It borders Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Hungary. With Slovakia not far. All literate, civilized countries. (More or less.) So I don’t accept Jedlička’s argument that what is going on in Romania is simply unknowable, and impossible to access without sending in Stanley and Livingstone to hack through the jungles.
    Apparently the protests started on January 12 as expression of solidarity with resignation of Deputy Health Minister Raed Arafat (a Romanian of ethnic Palestinian origin). Arafat resigned to protest proposed “reforms” in health care which would privatize Romania’s socialistic health care system.
    So, many of the protests have a “socialist” character, although the demonstrators are not tied to the existing Left opposition parties and seem to be leaderless. In other words, the protesters are employing the Facebook/Twitter/OWS/direct democracy form of protests. But they are not wearing silly ribbons because, unlike Russian protesters, they are not sponsored by Western NGO’s, in fact, these protests are unsanctioned by the West, and the Western media is totally ignoring them.
    [If anybody cared to ask my opinion, these amorphous, leaderless protests cannot result in anything except a waste of human time and energy that could be better spent studying the issues, organizing the base, and writing up a political platform. As Lenin once remarked, without a political party and leadership, disenfranchised people cannot possibly accomplish anything. But that’s just a sidebar…]

    • Dear Yalensis,

      You are totally correct about this. A week or so again I was saying that western media reporting of the protests in Russia was disproportionately greater than western media reporting of the protests in Hungary. I stand by that. However the western media did at least report the protests in Hungary whose government it dislikes. By contrast the protests in Romania, where the protests have been proportionately on a much bigger scale than the protests in both Hungary and Russia and where the protests have also been far angrier and more violent, have been barely reported at all. Romania’s government is of course staunchly pro western and is leading the attempt to “win” Moldavia for the west. As a matter of fact “winning” Moldavia appears to be a higher priority for the Romanian government than developing Romania itself, which is one reason why economic and social conditions there are so bad.

      Romania is the giant of the Balkans and is blessed with a big and well educated population, great natural beauty and abundant natural resources and should therefore be a rich country. It has a rich and fascinating culture with an outstanding cuisine and wonderful music. Unusually it is both Orthodox and Latin. The language is very close to Italian and educated Romanians can understand Italian without too much difficulty. Italian influence is very strong both in politics and culture. The outward ceremonies of Ceasescu’s dictatorship and Ceasescu’s rhetorical style in his heyday in the 1960s and 1970s were for example closely copied on Mussolini’s, which Ceasescu would have remembered from his youth.

      Romania has been disastrously governed for as long as I can remember because the obsessive focus of the Romanian political class is Moldavia rather than its own country. This is so even though the great majority of the Moldavian people have made it repeatedly clear that they do not want to be “recovered” by Romania. In fact many Moldavians seem if anything to prefer renewing Moldavia’s historic connection to Russia rather than any sort of union with Romania.

      The single minded focus on Moldavia was by the way every bit as strong under Ceasescu and was the main reason why Ceasescu’s relations with the USSR were so bad. It is a little known fact but one which was personally confirmed to me by people who would know that Ceasescu and Brezhnev hated each other from the time when Brezhnev at the start of his political career back in the 1940s was a very successful First Secretary of the Moldavian Communist Party. Shortly before his fall Ceasescu actually publicly denounced the treaty between Romania and the USSR that had made Moldavia part of the USSR and declared the reacquisition of Moldavia his personal goal. In his two final speeches and at his trial he made it fairly clear that he believed that the USSR had engineered the coup against him in retaliation. Since then though the regime has changed the objective has not.

      Though I have not been to Romania recently acquaintances of mine who have tell me that the standard of living of most of its people is now actually lower than it was in Ceasescu’s time. If that is true (and I can barely believe it) then given how bad conditions were then conditions must be little short of appalling now. That presumably explains the protests and why they have been so violent and so angry. One thing I can say is that corruption and crime in Romania are completely out of control and are far worse than in Russia whatever claims organisations like Transparency International may make.

    • cartman says:

      I think the protests actually began because of the death of a child in one of Romania’s hospitals. The problem with Romanian healthcare is the problem with open labour markets, and the poaching of skilled professionals by wealthy countries. There is a gloom around South Africa because of the demographics. The country spends and spends to train people in healthcare, but because they speak English, they move to English-speaking countries (particularly Canada) for higher salaries. So Canada gets nurses and doctors added to its healthier system which is paid for by much poorer South Africa.

      Romania is in a similar situation because their doctors can easily learn French and find work there. France then spends less training its own doctors.

  76. I am honestly at a loss.

    Are the liberals truly that hopeless, or do they *want* Russia to fail?


    Shuvalov manages to scare off investors with his “honesty” about Magnitsky, as opposed to mouthing a bunch of meaningless but positive platitudes.

    • And this is the man who is in charge of attracting foreign investors?

      What would have been so hard as telling Browder that the case is still under investigation and invite him to come to Russia to (as we used to say in England) “help the police with their enquiries?”.

    • marknesop says:

      Jeez, I hate these people. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest they do want Russia to fail; otherwise it would be expressed as, “maybe investors should be cautious, bla bla bla” rather than, “looking for another reason not to invest in Russia? Here it is”. Their perspective is if Russia can’t be a success with a liberal at the wheel, then it should be a failure because success with a bad, bad man like Vladimir Putin and his Magnitsky-killing henchmen in charge sends all the wrong messages.

      Not at all, of course, like the death of Dr. David Kelly in the U.K. Many will remember him as one of the voices in the wilderness who spoke out against the justification the Blair government used to propel Britain into war with Iraq. As time has revealed, he was absolutely correct, and the “evidence” was completely fabricated with the government’s full knowledge and participation. For being right (actually, for trying to get in the government’s way when it saw a means of increasing national power and influence at someone else’s expense) he was hounded and smeared by the government as a traitor. He allegedly took his own life as a result, and the official investigation (the Hutton Inquiry) was a complete whitewash which absolved the government of all blame. A subsequent government indicated interest in reopening the investigation, and a group of doctors submitted the findings of a year-long medical follow-up. Their report concluded Dr. Kelly could not have died as the Hutton Inquiry found he did, both because the vein he allegedly cut is so small and difficult to access, and because there were no prints on the gardening knife he supposedly used, although he was not wearing gloves.

      God only knows how they learned all that, because Lord Hutton directed that most of the evidence in the case be sealed for 70 years. Unusual in a suicide, wouldn’t you think? What happened to the leader of the government in power when Dr. Kelly died, by whatever means, and who pressed on with a war that shamed the nation for its duplicity and very likely contributed significantly to its present bankruptcy? Why, he’s the Special Envoy to the Quartet on the Middle East, which claims as its mandate the resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. How’s that working out so far, do you think? Zero progress notwithstanding, Mr. Blair is respected by many, revered by some as a great peacemaker. Dr. Kelly is rotting in a hole in the ground. Is anyone at work on a law that will prevent Mr. Blair and prominent ministers of the government he led, Lord Hutton and all their wives and children from traveling? Ha, ha – sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh. He does have something in common with Vladimir Putin, though – nobody seems to have a straight answer on how rich either man is. In Putin’s case, partisan zealots like Stanislav Belkovsky insist he is a multi-billionaire, although they can offer no proof whatsoever. In Blair’s case, it is because he channels his moneymaking activities through a network of companies so that he does not have to publicly report his earnings. However, he was a multimillionaire before he left the leadership of the U.K. (which is certainly not the same as saying he left politics), and it is safe to say he has not gotten poorer since then.

      So let’s think about that for a moment. The Russian government admits fault in Magnitsky’s death even though there remains considerable doubt that Sergei Magnitsky was the innocent philanthropic tax accountant the western narrative claims he was, he was certainly not a lawyer as William Browder insists he was and it was definitely not in the best interests of the Russian government’s case against him that he die at that particular point in time. People in supervisory positions were fired or otherwise punished.

      Dr. David Kelly, prominent former United Nations weapons inspector and biological warfare expert, reveals that the Blair government’s cassus belli for war against Iraq is fabricated, and this is later borne out in analysis that reveals the “intelligence report” was actually plagiarized from a U.S. researcher on Iraq. The link provided identifies government officials who forged the document, two of whom were the personal assistant to the PM’s press secretary and the PM’s junior press officer. Dr. Kelly is portrayed as a traitor in leaks by the government, is later found dead and his death declared a suicide. A whitewashed report clears the government of all blame, and the evidence pertaining to Dr. Kelly’s death is sealed for 70 years. The war goes ahead, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are killed and the country wrecked, and no weapons are found – exactly as Dr. Kelly said would be the case. Nobody in the British government loses his/her job or is punished in any way, no fault is admitted whatsoever, the leader leaves his position to take up another of honour and privilege and steadily increases his personal wealth and prestige.

      Russian liberals who would ape the behavior of the west’s political leaders should take a good, long look in the mirror, and think about growing beards. That way, they won’t have to repeat the experience if they don’t like what they see.

      • Dear Mark,

        I never thought to make the comparison between the deaths of Magnitsky and Dr. Kelly that you make though actually I think it is a very good one. I was by the way in a privileged position to follow the Hutton inquiry because I was working in the Court at the time and many of the lawyers involved were my friends.

        I have no doubt that Dr. Kelly committed suicide and was not murdered but that actually makes your comparison not worse but better. I happen to think (indeed I am sure) that Magnitsky also was not murdered. The belief that Dr. Kelly was murdered is passionately held in Britain by some members of his family, a few of his friends and a large number of people who are in political terms marginal. That describes exactly the sort of people who in Russia think Magnitsky was murdered. Foreign governments have not however adopted the theory that Dr. Kelly was murdered, debated the supposed murder in their national parliaments or imposed sanctions on the British officials who they say were involved in his death, which is what they have done in the Magnitsky case.

  77. yalensis says:

    Article by Irina Dzhorbenadze:
    On January 30 (Monday), Gruzian President Saakashvili will meet with Barack Obama in Washington DC. Former Gruzian Prez Shevardnadze speculates that Obama’s purpose is to recruit Saakashvili’s assistance against Iran. According to Shevardnadze,
    Obama will lobby to bring Gruzia into NATO effectively immediately. This is prerequisite for Iranian campaign, because Gruzia will be needed as staging ground for Iranian invasion. Once Gruzia is in NATO, Russia will be cut off from her military base in Armenia.
    Saakashvili’s meeting with Obama will precede the NATO summit in Chicago:


    • marknesop says:

      To the very best of my understanding, NATO membership is not possible so long as a country has unresolved territorial disputes. Georgia…ahhh…has a couple of them, which fact was prevented from escaping anyone’s notice by a violent attempt to take them back in 2008. Also, the United States cannot simply gift countries with NATO membership, as powerful as it might think it is – there is a process, and nothing could make it that rapid short of a broad waiver which would essentially broadcast to the world that there are no rules the west will not break in its pursuit of its own interests.

      Coincidentally enough, the agreement negotiated with Georgia to permit logistic resupply of the 102nd Military Base in Armenia via air and land routes owned by Georgia was suspended by Saakashvili following the 2008 dust-up, and annulled for good last year, also by the Georgian government. So in effect, Russia has been “cut off” from its Armenian base since 2008. Although there should be little doubt it could reestablish the link in a couple of days if it chose to do so.

      I thought Obama was smarter than that. It’d probably cost quite a lot, both in money and political favours, to bring the Georgian army into the picture, whereas he could probably hire the same number of homeless people to shoot up apartment blocks as if they’d never spent a day as professionals in uniform – then scream and drop their rifles and run at the first sign of organized counterattack – for billions less. What happened to being careful with the taxpayers’ money?

      I’m really sorry I haven’t posted anything new for such a long time, but I’ve been crazy busy with work and family and consequently am able only to drop in occasionally to comment. But thanks to everybody for keeping things going with great and interesting information!!! I really will try to get something new posted soon.

      • yalensis says:

        I do take Dzhorbenadze’s argument with a small grain of salt. I have found her to be a fairly good reporter and analyst on Russia-Gruzian relations. But she IS a Gruzian patriot after all (albeit not a rabid Saak-ite), and I think she is indulging in a bit of wishful thinking that Obama will wave a magic wand and get Gruzia into NATO tomorrow. The price Gruzia would need to pay for this glorious event: serving as staging base for Americans against Iran. [Dzhorbenadze doesn’t mention, but Gruzia currently has HUGE trading relationship and actually not bad political relations with Iran. So this war will really harm them a lot.]
        Having said that, she does lay out a plausible possible scenario, and quotes Shevardnadze to back it up. The scenario is this:
        America decides to go to war against Iran. Russia supports Iran but needs to break through to their Armenian base. Gruzia is brought into NATO in order to preempt this, because Russians won’t have the balls to send troops into Gruzia once it is NATO member.
        I realize there is supposed to be a process to get into NATO, there are rules, and there are other countries to consider. But seriously, when did Americans ever take rules and other points of view into consideration? Well, maybe they did (a little) in the past, but definitely not under Bush Jr.; and Obama is, in anything, even more arrogant and imperious than Bush ever was, when it comes to foreign policy. So, if Obama decides tomorrow that Gruzia gets into NATO, well, then Gruzia gets into NATO tomorrow. (Literally tomorrow, that is when Saak arrives in Washington. I will follow the news and try to stay alert.)

        • It is important to remember that at the NATO summit in 2008 the Germans supported by France blocked Bush’s and Saakashvili’s attempt to get Georgia into the NATO membership programme. As I remember there was a colossal row between Merkel and Bush during which Merkel was apparently scathing about Saakashvili whom she considered a clown. This was before the 2008 war following which Merkel is supposed to have made the point in private discussions that if Georgia had been in NATO the west would have been legally bound to defend it. It is surely no accident that the first news media admissions in the west that it was Georgia that was the aggressor in the 2008 war happened in the German press.

          I cannot see that anything has happened to change Germany’s position. On the contrary the strong impression I get is that Germany has if anything drawn even more towards Russia since 2008. Coming on top of the tensions over US missile defence plans I cannot imagine that the Germans would want to jeopardise their relations with Russia even more on Saakashvili’s or Obama’s behalf. As for the US needing Georgia as a base from which to attack Iran, the US does not need Georgia to be in NATO for that to happen since Saakashvili is in no position to refuse any US request for Georgia to be used in that way whether Georgia is in NATO or not. Frankly given how the Germans feel about the prospects of a war against Iran the idea of Georgia joining NATO so that it can be used as a forward base against Iran is one that it seems to me is likely to alarm the Germans even more and to give the Germans even more reason to oppose Georgia’s NATO membership.

          • marknesop says:

            I find it hard to warm up to Merkel, possibly because she’s such a machine, but she is nothing if not a pragmatist. The USA might be able to skew the rules to suit itself, but it can only do that so many times before it is obvious to everyone that there really are no rules – that everything is viewed in light of national advantage, and the rules amended accordingly. There’s a name for such a nation, it’s not “free-market democracy”, and its a label the USA strives to avoid unless it’s applied to someone else. And you’re quite correct that in this case, national advantage for the USA would not translate to broad advantage for everyone, particularly Europe. If it began to become obvious that all a country needed to do to be accepted into NATO was prostitute itself to western interests, where would be the vaunted integrity of the alliance? Where the exclusive club atmosphere, the impression that one would have to meet pretty tough standards to get in? It’d be clearly nothing more than a grubby playground marriage of convenience, a shiny toy awarded for having come aboard in the unqualified role of camp follower. That established, how could NATO be contrasted favourably against the Warsaw Pact, the Axis of Evil or the Caucasian Emirate? The purity of its goals? Ha, ha.

            Saakashvili fancies himself a global strategist and master manipulator, and is so far from shy about expressing his regard for himself that the western media might want to back off a little on hyping his western education – it’s no longer a positive reflection. And it’s fairly transparent that his view of NATO membership is exactly as Merkel feared; he wants that mutual-defense pact, so he can drag NATO into his further adventures with Russia – or, at the very least, to smirk and mug at Russia from behind NATO’s coattails and use its collective menace as a bargaining chip. For a guy who’s touted as multilingual, he really speaks only one language, and it’s force.

            But I give Obama more credit for smarts than that despite some incredibly boneheaded blunders he has made. He still looks pretty damned smart contrasted with would-be leaders who promise an American base on the moon in exchange for the keys to the White House (lending currency to the old chestnut about promising the moon). And he should know that NATO membership for Georgia spells short-term-advantage-long-term-pain as clearly as naming your newborn son Zippy (because he’s so cute) without thinking about how he’s going to carry that name around when he’s 40.

            I’m sure that in spite of all that’s reasonable, the United States really does crave war with Iran, mostly on Israel’s behalf, and Bibi and the Likudniks are doing their utmost to make it a U.S. election issue. But NATO membership for Georgia is a bridge too far; a down-payment on which the west would have to pay and pay and pay. Put me down for “not happening”, although Saakashvili’s dog and pony show will doubtless be worth watching and it is equally certain that he will spin any meetings he has with U.S. government officials as “encouragement for Georgia on its path to NATO membership”. That won’t even really be a lie, because the USA would dearly love to bestow NATO membership upon Georgia. But it’s simply not worth what it would cost later.

            • Saakashvili is a very dangerous individual who consistently overplays his hand. He is also a serial fabricator of “facts” to the point where it is difficult to know any longer whether anything we think we know about Georgia is one of his fictions or a real fact. Georgia’s economic miracle is a case in point.

          • yalensis says:

            Hi, Alex, You make some good points, but I think there are a couple of counter-points to take into consideration:
            (1) Merkel had a row with Bush Jr. over Gruzia? This is true. But now it’s Obama, not Bush. Bush was an idiot. Merkel did not respect him. Obama is intelligent. Merkel respects him.
            (2) Germany edging closer to Russia? I am not so sure. I get the impression that German-Russian relations are getting worse, not better, especially after Putin announced for Prez. And I am pretty sure that Germany, along with her Teutonic shadow, Sweden, will be joining the anti-Putin coalition shortly.
            (3) Clarification: Gruzia’s membership in NATO is not needed if just as staging ground against Iran. You are correct that Saakashvili will house and feed American troops no matter what. No, Dzhorbenadze’s point is that Obama will put Gruzia in NATO as a PRE-EMPTIVE move (like in a chess game), that would prevent Russian troops from entering Gruzia to forge a route to their Armenian base AFTER Gruzia joins the anti-Iran coalition. This is all speculation, of course, but intelligent speculation, I believe.
            (4) The Germans may well oppose NATO memb